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I work in a Mortuary - AMA

94 replies

MortuaryAMA · 15/07/2018 19:33

I know this is a sensitive topic, but in day to day life I get so many questions surrounding what it is like and how I deal with certain situations.

I will answer as honestly, tactfully and sensitively as i can.

OP posts:

unadventuretime · 16/07/2018 06:07

How long does a PM take?

When people pass away in hospital, how do they get to the morgue? I mean obviously they are pushed there but you never see porters pushing dead people along (at least I never have, and if so many people pass away in hospital you'd expect to see it occasionally). Do the porters use hidden lifts down to the morgue or...?

And thank you for doing a job many of us couldn't.


Calledyoulastnightfromglasgow · 16/07/2018 06:15

Gosh - I used to walk past a mortuary in my to work many years ago and wondered what happened.
Thanks for this. Thanks for doing this job and so well. Really cheers me that you treat the patients with so much respect.


bluetrampolines · 16/07/2018 06:41

Because of the nature of your job are there any specific requests you have laid out with regards to your own death? Sorry if that is intrusive


MortuaryAMA · 16/07/2018 08:25

Sounds like a very interesting career and Most certainly a good conversation opener.
However it must be hard to almost impossible not feel emotional
Especially when you're dealing with the body of a child.
Yes I know you have to remain professional but, Professional or not you're still human.

There are particular cases that stick with you and yes, children in particular can be quite an emotive cases to deal with. I have the perspective that it isn't my grief to have if you know what I mean. They aren't my relative and while I find it sad I don't have the same emotional attachment.

Of course there are times when I sit down on break and have a good cry. It's times like this when it's important to have decent colleagues and an understanding manager. There is no expectation for us to be OK and just get on with things and it's perfectly fine to struggle at times.

You have said you that you take out and weigh the organs, etc., when conducting a pm. Where does this information go?

You have made perfect sense, don't worry. All information will go on a detailed post-mortem report. If your Mums case was handled by the coroner you can make a request to them to see the full report, and if it was hospital requested you can contact the hospital directly to request a copy. They may charge you a fee for this, just to make you aware.

How long does a PM take? How do they get to the morgue?

Thank you Smile As we tend to do 4 PM's at a time it takes a couple of hours to complete them all. A single PM doesn't take that long, but it's very rare to only do one at a time, forensic cases being the exception.

There are indeed hidden corridors and lifts. The most you will see is a patient being taken from a ward to a lift on a special covered trolley.


Thank you for your kind words. It's so important to treat the deceased as humans. They all have stories and families behind them and I know how I would like my own relatives and myself to be treated when the time comes.

Because of the nature of your job are there any specific requests you have laid out with regards to your own death? Sorry if that is intrusive

Not intrusive at all, and yes, definitely! My first request is that I have to be taken to a Mortuary I go to a different hospital. I would rather spare my colleagues having to go through that.

That's the most specific, but I have also laid out my funeral plans (and pre-paid with my favourite funeral director), written and rewritten a will and taken out life insurance. The amount of people that come through our doors with no one, or from a family that can't afford a funeral for them is very saddening. I don't want to put my children or husband in the position of having to worry about it all while they grieve.

OP posts:

OhMyGodTheyKilledKenny · 16/07/2018 09:17

Do you get a sense of the person from their body? I mean do some seem at peace and others more "troubled" IYSWIM. Or do the bodies seem very much like an empty shell of the person/the character that it once contained?


tillytillytilly2018 · 16/07/2018 09:21

You’re a woman! I got the sense that you were a man reading your replies! Probably quite sexist of me sorry 😐 do you have many female colleagues in your profession?


UtterlyDesperate · 16/07/2018 09:22

Thank you for this thread, OP Flowers


24carrot · 16/07/2018 09:46

Thank you for this thread, OP, I find this so interesting. Can you explain a bit please about the reasons a PM might be required? I understand in murder enquiries but is suspected foul play/medical negligence the main reason for having them? I find the idea of a PM on one of my loved ones or myself really really upsetting so I’d be grateful for reassurance that it truly is necessary - even when cause of death is obvious- and not just done as a box ticking exercise iyswim.


unadventuretime · 16/07/2018 10:24

Thank you for answering my questions OP. I must admit I am a bit intrigued about hidden corridors and lifts! But I am the kind of nerd who finds the layout of big buildings quite interesting anyway.


unadventuretime · 16/07/2018 10:29

24carrot I'm not the OP or an expert but PMs are more common than I realised. My nan died in a nursing home and if she hadn't been seen by a Dr a certain number of hours before her death (I can't remember how many, maybe 48? 72?) she would have had to have one, even though she was terminally ill when she went to the nursing home.


Dontknowwhatwillmakeitbetter · 16/07/2018 17:20

I didn’t even imagine that a mortuary worker would speak to the dead / treat them as their own. How wonderful. My dad died 6 years ago after an aggressive, unexpected and brutal illness. It was a traumatic time. Every time I pass the hospice he died in I feel Some of the same trauma I felt when I had to leave him for the last time. I feel so much better knowing (hopefully) he would have been treated with respect. Thank you!


December2018 · 16/07/2018 17:35

This is soo interesting thanks for posting OP


ggirl · 16/07/2018 17:40

I am considering leaving my body for research , do you have to deal with those bodies ? Would my body go to morgue first then to the human tissue authority ?


Atetoomanyjaffacakes · 16/07/2018 17:46

Thank you so much for this thread, I am considering a career in the death industry so this is very useful


24carrot · 16/07/2018 20:50

unadventuretime yes this is what I mean - why would they do that with a terminally ill elderly person? To check nobody can be held accountable for her death I presume?


FeedMeSteak · 16/07/2018 21:01

How would I get into this line of work? Without any gcses? Even if it was just to volunteer one day a week along the lines of what you do.


StorminaBcup · 16/07/2018 22:03

Thanks for answering my question MortuaryAMA - I didn't know the pm was so detailed so I was surprised when you said organs were weighed etc.,

unadventuretime - It sounds a bit crass but when my df was terminally ill we spent a lot of time in hospital towards the end and saw a lot of people being transported to the morgue. It's only once you've spotted one that you realise, they're very discreet. I also think some of wards are strategically placed too but this might just be our hospital!


unadventuretime · 17/07/2018 06:01

storminabcup I was wondering if some wards were strategically placed too. I guess some wards have a higher mortality rate than others.

24carrot yes I think that's why, to check her death was due to the cancer (or whatever terminal illness the person presented with) and not anything like neglect from the nursing home etc.. Luckily she was seen by a Dr within the time frame so didn't need to have one.


ItsNiceItsDifferentItsUnusual · 17/07/2018 07:59

What is the most interesting case/post mortem you've worked on - if that's an ok thing to answer. Please ignore if not!


MortuaryAMA · 17/07/2018 08:33

Do you get a sense of the person from their body?

Not particularly no. In certain circumstances you can tell a person was distressed when they died because of, for example, injuries to their body (self inflicted or otherwise). When they come from the ward they look very peaceful.

do you have many female colleagues in your profession?

No problem Smile I can see why, as it used to be a very male dominated profession. Nowadays there is a huge increase in the number of women working in the industry and in fact there is only one man working in our department.

Can you explain a bit please about the reasons a PM might be required? I understand in murder enquiries but is suspected foul play/medical negligence the main reason for having them?

Foul play and possible medical negligence (hospital ordered PM's) make up a very small percentage of our workload. The majority of our work actually comes from the community. A PM would be required in the event of an unexplained death (such as someone being found at home, someone having a fall then dying in hospital) or a violent or unnatural death - violent in the sense of physical trauma due to say a car crash, fall, work accident (not murder) and unnatural meaning suicide, poisoning etc).

In your Nans case unadventuretime I am unsure why a PM was necessary, but their would have been a good reason, such as suspicion that she had a fall or obtained a head injury. It's not routine at all to put someone who as terminally ill through an unnecessary PM, and I am sorry your family were put through that Flowers

As for hidden corridors, even I was excited about them when I started at the hospital!


I am pleased to have reassured you and I am sorry your fathers death was traumatic for you all. Anyone treating the deceased with nothing but the utmost care and respect is very seriously sanctioned. I have seen people lose their jobs over it.


No problem. People are so curious about the work that we do, so hopefully my answers are helpful t those who ask.

I am considering leaving my body for research , do you have to deal with those bodies ? Would my body go to morgue first then to the human tissue authority ?

Any body left for medical research has to be assessed as suitable by a doctor who looked after the patient and who determined the cause of death. If they were in hospital when they died they would come to us until the relevant body (HTA, anatomy school, research institute) were ready to collect them.

There are certain criteria a person has to meet to donate (
A certain weight and without certain conditions). You can find this information out from the relevant organisation you wish to donate to. If full body donation isn't possible there are places who will take brains, hearts and other organisation for research.

Definitely have the paperwork filled out ready, and file it away. Make family aware and write your wishes up in your will. They will need paperwork in order to respect your wishes. (I hope my answer makes sense and isn't too garbled!)


Definitely try and get some relevant experience as it will increase your chances greatly. If you can do some work with a funeral director or a bereavement organisation (if you have time) it will look brilliant on your CV.

How would I get into this line of work? Without any gcses? Even if it was just to volunteer one day a week along the lines of what you do.

As I mentioned above, volunteering in a relevant organisation will look really good on your CV. As for volunteering in a mortuary, it's very difficult to get a placement due to the sheer amount of red tape involved. I would advise contacting funeral directors and bereavement charities and asking about their opportunities.


You are very welcome. We are quite thorough, and the pathologist inspects everything individually too.

OP posts:

OrchidFancy · 17/07/2018 10:28

Thank you for what you do and for treating our relations with care and dignity.
My lovely dad died in hospital last year. I was with him when he died and I hated leaving him on the ward and imagined him being put on a trolley and taken to the mortuary. I couldn't get the image out of my head.
it helps to know he was hopefully treated with kindness. He also had a pm (mesothelioma) which I found hard to deal with.
No questions really, just thankyouFlowers


MaitlandGirl · 17/07/2018 10:49

Can I just say I love how you refer to the deceased as ‘patients’ - it gives a good sense of the type of person you are and how you take care of everyone who comes through your department.

Also, just in case you worked at the Royal Berkshire in Reading in 1999, thank you for taking such good care of my daughter. I was worried about her being alone and the funeral director assured me everyone in the mortuary was lovely - so if that was you, thank you.


Arkengarthdale · 17/07/2018 11:04

You sound so nice, Op, thank you for this thread


SpongeBobGrannyPants · 17/07/2018 11:06

Where do the babies go? Is there a special room for them? We were given minimal information about the mortuary when our son was there (possibly to protect us), but in the end he was there for 3 weeks before cremation. I hated the feeling of him being all alone in a place I couldn't picture in my head. Was much more at peace (as far as I could have been) after the cremation.


Puzzledandpissedoff · 17/07/2018 12:07

Many thanks for such a worthwhile thread, OP - could I ask you to expand on the thing about "doing 4 PM's at a time"?

Do you mean there are 4 staff, each working on one patient at the same time, or does one member of staff go from patient to patient, carrying out one type of procedure on each and then moving on to the next sort of procedure on each, if you see what I mean?

Forgive me if I've put that clumsily!!

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