Coronavirus UK: Doctors ask grieving families to confirm their relative's deaths via ZOOM

Doctors have asked grieving families to confirm their relative’s deaths by viewing their bodies over video link to avoid house calls amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Gillian Orman, from Southampton, rang the NHS after her mother Kathleen Bricknell, 86, died.

A doctor said everyone in the house – including her deceased mother – would have to wear a mask during an in-person visit to confirm the death.  

The doctor originally asked if she could confirm the death over video link, but Mrs Orman said she refused the ‘undignified’ offer.

‘The receptionist said a doctor would come out to confirm my mother’s death,’ said Mrs Orman.

Gillian Orman, from Southampton, rang the NHS after her mother Kathleen Bricknell (pictured), 86, died

Gillian Orman, from Southampton, rang the NHS after her mother Kathleen Bricknell (pictured), 86, died

Mrs Bricknell's death came three months after the death of Mrs Orman's daughter Katherine (pictured together), 34

Mrs Bricknell’s death came three months after the death of Mrs Orman’s daughter Katherine (pictured together), 34

‘The doctor rang and said she wanted to confirm her death via video link. I couldn’t believe it – what she was suggesting was so undignified.

‘I refused, saying I wanted the doctor to come out to the house. She said she would only come if everyone in the property was wearing a face mask, including my late mother.

‘I know we’re in the middle of a Covid epidemic but you expect support when something like this happens.’   

Her mother was suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung complaint characterised by long-term breathing problems.

Her death followed the death of Mrs Orman’s daughter Katherine, 34, by just three months. 

Mrs Bricknell (bottom left - off centre) with her sister Carol (sat next to her) and the rest of her side of the family

Mrs Bricknell (bottom left – off centre) with her sister Carol (sat next to her) and the rest of her side of the family

Mrs Bricknell with her grandaughter Katherine. Mrs Bricknell was suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung complaint

Mrs Bricknell with her grandaughter Katherine. Mrs Bricknell was suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung complaint

Dr Dan Baylis, chief medical officer at Solent NHS Trust, said: ‘During the current pandemic, GP surgeries across the country are asked to consider offering remote consultations to patients and families, including to verify whether someone has passed away. This is to protect both staff and patients.

‘We understand that many families would prefer to be seen face-to-face and we will always accommodate this. Our family liaison officer will be contacting the family to discuss their concerns so they can receive the right support.

‘We will use their feedback so we can actively improve our services and the level of care we offer to all patients and their families.’

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients’ Association, said ‘We’d expect the NHS to carry out such sensitive processes as certifying a death in person, in a way that respects the dignity of the person who has died.’

Mrs Bricknell with one of her granddaughters in Bournemouth last Christmas. The doctor originally asked if she could confirm the death over video link, but Mrs Orman said she refused the 'undignified' offer

Mrs Bricknell with one of her granddaughters in Bournemouth last Christmas. The doctor originally asked if she could confirm the death over video link, but Mrs Orman said she refused the ‘undignified’ offer

It comes after Calum Semple, an expert in outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), said that people ‘should be wearing a mask’ even when outside.

He told Sky News: ‘We now appreciate the importance of face coverings and masks in an indoor environment, particularly where ventilation cannot be guaranteed. 

‘In reality, if you’re outside walking your dog on your own and you’re many metres away from other people then wearing a mask is making no difference. But if you’re in a city centre shopping precinct, or you’re queueing outside the shops then yes, you should be wearing a mask.’

The BMA today suggested that those older than 60, or who are obese or have other health conditions making them vulnerable to coronavirus should be supplied with ‘medical grade’ masks, in line with WHO guidance.

Yesterday 15,635 coronavirus cases were revealed in the UK – with 136 more deaths bringing the total to 43,579 since the pandemic began.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk