What to do when someone dies at home in British Columbia

Mallory J Greene
Mallory J Greene
June 11th 2024 - 4 minute read
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Navigating the immediate steps after the death of a loved one in can be challenging. This guide outlines the essential actions to take after a death occurs in the home in British Columbia.

Navigating the immediate steps after the death of a loved one in British Columbia can be challenging. This guide provides essential actions to ensure safety, secure a pronouncement of death, and handle necessary arrangements. It also offers advice on managing practical matters and seeking support during this difficult time.

Immediate Actions: Ensuring Safety and Pronouncement of Death

  1. Assess for Safety: In the case of an unexpected or accidental death, ensure the scene is safe. Contact emergency services (911) immediately if you suspect foul play or if the cause of death is unknown.
  2. Pronouncement of Death: A formal pronouncement of death is required. Contact one of the following:
  • The Deceased's Doctor: If the death was anticipated due to illness or the deceased was under hospice care.
  • Emergency Services (911): If the death was unexpected, or the individual was not under a doctor's care. A medical professional, such as a paramedic or coroner, will pronounce the death.

Specifics for Palliative Care in British Columbia

If the deceased was receiving palliative care at home:

  • Contact the Palliative Care Team: They are prepared for this eventuality and will guide you through the necessary steps, including arranging for a doctor or nurse to attend and pronounce death.
  • Funeral Home Arrangements (Optional): If you have a pre-selected funeral home, you can contact them. The palliative care team may be able to assist with this coordination.

The Next Steps After Death Is Pronounced

1) Contact a Funeral Home

  • Pre-Arrangements: If the deceased had pre-planned funeral arrangements, the designated funeral home will be specified in their plan.
  • Choosing a Funeral Home: If there are no pre-arrangements, select a reputable funeral home in your area. Search online, get referrals, or consult the British Columbia Funeral Association (https://bcfunerals.com/).

2) Arranging Transportation

  • The funeral home will respectfully transport the deceased from your home to their facility.

3) Obtaining Medical Certificate of Death (MCD)

  • The doctor, paramedic, or coroner will complete the Medical Certificate of Death (MCD), indicating the cause of death.
  • You'll need multiple copies of the MCD for various administrative tasks. The funeral director can advise on how many copies to order.

4) Registering the Death

  • The funeral home typically registers the death with Vital Statistics Agency of British Columbia on your behalf. This must occur within 5 days of the death.
  • They will provide you with a Registration of Death form for settling the deceased's affairs.

Practical Matters in the Following Days

  • Notifying Others: Inform family, friends, employers, and any relevant organizations (banks, insurance companies, etc.). The funeral home may help with obituaries.
  • Sorting through Affairs: Begin gathering important documents like the will, insurance policies, financial information, and contact details for any relevant accounts or services.
  • Accessing Support Systems: Reach out to your support network, professional grief counselors, or faith-based communities if needed.

Additional Considerations

  • Government Benefits: Check if you're eligible for survivor benefits or funeral assistance. The BC government website or your funeral director can provide guidance.
  • Estate Matters: Consult an estate lawyer if needed. They assist with wills, probate, and administering the deceased's assets.
  • Self-Care: Give yourself time to grieve. Don't be afraid to ask for practical help and emotional support from those around you.

Important Resources


Losing a loved one is immensely painful. While the practical tasks outlined here are important, prioritize seeking emotional support and lean on your loved ones as you navigate this difficult time. Allow yourself time and space to grieve.