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A Plot Question

edited July 2009 in - Reading
Okay, this is probably one for someone who works in a hospital or experienced this kind of thing.

In my novel a support character is involved in a major car crash [this happens off camera, as it where] What I need to know is: how would the next of kin been told she is in hospital [and dying]? Would it be a phone call from the police or the hospital?

I know a 'death message' is when the police arrive on your doorstep to inform you about the death; but I'm not sure about this one.



  • Police.
  • Really? That surprises me, but works better for my novel (this is what I wanted to do.)

  • Another question: phone call or doorstep?
  • doorstep. I have a vivid memory of the police driver who came to the Advanced Motorists Group meetings, when I was a member that is, telling us that the one part of the job they never told you about and the one part he never ever got used to, was turning up on someone's doorstep, when they opened the door and realised - without being told - why they were there, he would see the light go out of their eyes and knew it would not return. He said it made him feel bad.
  • Thanks. That's brilliant it fits perfectly into the scene that I've imagined.
  • I've always wondered what happens if they turn up and you are out. How often do they try and get hold of you? Do they try your neighbours to see if they know where you are? I'm sure they can't leave you a note asking you to contact them (like courriers do) but especially in rural areas how often can they keep going back.
    I do know someone whose son died (he had a number of illnesses) at his flat but because he was blind he had no adresses written down (it was all in braille) and it took a week for them to be able to contact his parents. They weren't able to contact anyone. his parents were naturally devasted.
  • Sometimes the personal column in our local paper has small notices stating that xxx of xxxx- address- died on xxxx in hospital and asking for any relatives to contact xxx.
  • Thanks everyone, this is giving me some interesting material for the book.
  • No matter who the deceased is, it is the police who end up going round to the relatives after an accident. The only way the hospital gets to do it is if there has already been contact with the relevant next of kin (ie after a few days in Intensive Care, visiting) and even then we don't say - he's dead - it's usually, 'taken a turn for the worse, you ought to come in'. Sometimes of course the relative asks outright, and it's discretion then. Personally, if bluntly asked and I know the person I'm speaking to, I will tell the truth and then keep them talking for a few minutes to 'talk them down' a little before they make the journey in to us. However if I know the person is alone, I won't admit to a death. I'd hate to be a police officer with the Death's Doorstep visit to make.
  • Thanks for the Ceka. Some useful info there.
  • I concur with ceka's post. I asked the brother in law who is a copper, and they have to do the formal notification of death to relatives of the deceased, and he says it's the most gut wrenching, awful feeling being confronted with the emotion from relatives when they're told. He said sometimes he's left feeling inadeqate that he couldn't help, and it never gets better.
  • Thanks for that Red, very kind of you!
  • Our hospital contacts the Police to pass on messages if a person is very poorly or say some one has collapsed in the street or been in an accident. They also ask for the Police to pass on a death message as others have already said.
  • This is great - getting more info! I'm sure I'll be able to use this!
  • I would say I have a unique take on this one.

    Years ago I was involved in an accident - bicycle v tipper truck. I (the cyclist) came off worse with serious head injuries (I was unconscious at the side of the road and a passing motorist had stopped and was slapping my face to try and bring me round but this copper said she was wasting her time cos I was gone) It'll take more than a steel tailboard to shut me up though, and I did wake up although I was very dazed.

    I was rushed to the local hospital and given emergency treatment and lots of X-Rays. Eventually, and I was by this time just about fully conscious, I was wheeled into a room where these two very serious looking men in suits told me that I had fractured my skull and that this fracture was in the shape of a V. Their concern was that the point of this V had punctured the membrane between my skull and my brain,and so I was to be transferred to a neurology ward some 20 miles away.

    Soon after this I was approached with a view to informing my next of kin of my plight (my mother at that time). I may have still been a bit dazed, but I really didn't want my mother to get a call at work saying her son had been in a serious accident,so I came up with a plan.

    At this time I shared a flat with 2 mates and, as luck would have it, the mother of one of these mates was in the same hospital for an operation on her bunions. I knew that my mate would be visiting her that evening and so I instructed the nurse to tell his mother to tell him to tell my mother what had happened - my mother only lived up the street from our flat.

    As you can imagine, this relay turned into a very unpleasant game of Chinese whispers for my mother, who spent a frantic night not knowing exactly what had happened.

    Next time I'll leave it to the professionals.
  • Stirling, you could always phone your local police station to ask them if the police would be involved in a situation like this. I'm sure they'd be willing to help.
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