Introduction

The last offices given to a deceased patient will try to fulfil their religious and cultural beliefs as well as Health & Safety & legal requirements.

However, this procedure may be compromised by the need for specific measures if an infectious disease was associated with the death. Staff should handle these situations sensitively and, if required, seek help from a member of the Infection Control Team.

 

Purpose

Most patients do not die of infections. However, patients may be colonised with antibiotic resistant organisms, symptomless carriers of an infectious disease, e.g. Hepatitis B or may have had documented infections which are unrelated to their death e.g. Staphylococcal skin infections. It is therefore very important that good infection prevention and control measures are maintained.

Precautions used for handling infectious patients are still necessary after death to ensure the safety of the healthcare professionals, relatives and others involved in the care of the deceased such as funeral directors.

 

Risk Assessment

No particular risk of infection exists with the majority of cadavers. However, bacteria normally colonising the gut, respiratory tract, genital tract etc can leak into previously sterile sites such as blood, muscle and lung, after death. Additionally, as body functions cease after death, there may be leakage from orifices to cause local contamination of the skin and environment. Therefore the whole body should be regarded as potentially contaminated.

In certain situations there may be an additional risk due to a particular infection which may be spread by:

  • Airborne droplets or particles especially from lungs
  • Discharges from the gut
  • Inoculation risks
  • Skin lesions

 

Policy Details

Download: PDF version
Compiled by: The Infection Control Team
Ratified by: Clinical Governance Committee
Date Ratified: April 2016
Date Issued: April 2018
Review Date: April 2019
Target Audience: All staff
Contact name: Ann Birler, Consultant Nurse, Infection Prevention & Control

 

See also:

  • Last Offices Policy
  • Standard Precaution Policy