Funeral director and Coroner's cases

Funeral director (Checklist on rights and responsibilities)

A funeral director is there to help carry out your wishes. The list of questions below may help you decide what to ask when choosing a funeral director. You might ask a trusted family member or friend to help with this.

  • If I want to see my child (viewings), can we have as many viewings as our family needs? Do we need to make appointments?
  • Can we have our child’s body at home?
  • If I want to, can I be involved in washing, dressing and caring for my child’s body prior to their body being placed in the coffin?
  • What kinds of expenses are involved? Funeral costs vary considerably. It is important to know what services you will receive and how much each part will cost. You might want to contact a number of funeral directors to obtain written itemised quotes. Ask if they have a payment plan.
  • What is embalming? Is it necessary? What’s involved? Why would I need to think about that?
  • Do you routinely use makeup? Some parents have been unhappy that makeup has been used on their child without their permission.
  • What styles of coffins are available? Can I choose a special colour or decorate the coffin?
  • What about flowers, balloons, or doves? May we organise these if we want?
  • I have some cultural and religious beliefs I would like taken into consideration – is the funeral director able to respect my needs?
  • What's involved with either burial or cremation?
  • How soon can I have my child’s ashes at home with me?
  • Should we involve our other children? How might we involve them?

Autopsy and Coroner's cases

In the case of an unexpected death, it is rare that a Coroner's post-mortem is required. In such a situation, the Coroner does not have to seek your consent. However, you are able to lodge an objection to a post-mortem. The Coroner's office and your care team can advise of the appropriate process for this, and answer any questions you may have. Your written consent is required for retention of any organ or tissue.

You may request a post-mortem or biopsies if you feel it would be helpful to your understanding of your child's condition and cause of death. You may also be asked by your clinical team to consent to a post-mortem for research or teaching purposes. This is strictly your choice. Remember, if you are unclear about what you need to do or the decisions you need to make, talk to a member of your care team.5

5 Adapted from: Journeys: Palliative care for children and teenagers, version 2, Eds. Fleming, S.
    Coombs, S. and Phillips, M., Palliative Care Australia, 2010.

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