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Sadly, sometimes a patient is not able to survive their illness or injuries. Doctors are usually able to warn those concerned that their relative may die but sometimes there may be little warning.

ICU staff should be able to answer any questions you may have about your relative's condition before they died and their medical care. If there is anything unclear about the cause of your relative's death, you can ask to meet the Consultant in charge of the ICU.

If you wish, you should be able to spend time with your relative's body when they have died. Nursing staff will be able to advise you on any formalities that are required at this time.

Bereavement is a shattering experience. The death of someone close can leave feelings of numbness, tiredness and helplessness as well as deep sadness. Coming to terms with your loss can be a long process and it is perfectly natural for it to take time. Family and friends can be a great source of support but you may also wish to contact one of the organisations listed at the end of this book.


Brain stem death

It may be possible for a patient who has died to become an organ donor. Organ donation is frequently an option if a patient, who is on a ventilator, is pronounced dead as a result of brain-stem death.

The decision to stop ventilation is made by the Consultant, but only once this has been explained to close family and friends.

It may also be possible for body tissues to be donated within 24 hours of death. Some people find that organ or tissue donation is something positive that can be gained from a terrible situation, particularly if they know it is what their relative wanted. The ICU staff can talk to you about the possibilities of donation.


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