If a patient dies while family members are absent, one hopes the passing was peaceful.
Yet, one wonders – who pronounced the patient’s death and how was this done? Who called the family and how was the family informed of this on the telephone? Did somebody greet the family when they came into the hospital? How were condolences offered and how was the family consoled and counseled?
It would be a mistake to view these as bureaucratic details. How these issues are addressed may leave lasting impressions on the bereaved. Sadly, this important and sensitive work is too often relegated to the most junior clinicians such as interns, who have had little or no training as to how to do it skillfully (Hallenbeck 1999,Marchand 2004).
Suggestions for telephone notification of death are presented below.