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17 May

"Do people talk enough about death? No, they don't. Not at all"

The mortuary team

The mortuary team have been running tours as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week. 

We caught up with manager Adam Raven and deputy Tarot Noble to discuss death and why they’ve opened their doors to staff.

The mortuary may be quiet but it’s always busy. In 2018, the team of Adam, Tarot, Amelie Warnier, Patrice Brissett and Vicky Wilson, dealt with 2251 patients – that’s an average of 43 a week, a quarter of which had a post-mortem. 

The team are responsible for receiving and preparing patients for viewings or post-mortems, complete medical procedures, deal with local coroners and undertakers, liaise with the families of the deceased and work closely with the bereavement team.

It’s a demanding and sensitive job which is why the mortuary team were keen to invite hospital staff to learn more about what happens to patients after death. 

“We wanted to show everyone the care patients get after they’ve passed away,” said Tarot, who has worked at the mortuary since January 2018. “We really care for our patients and we put a lot of effort into reconstruction - we can spend hours trying to make someone look presentable.

“By having staff come here, they can learn and pass on information to families and patients on end of life pathways to help assuage any fears. Also, we want the hospital staff to know who to contact if they’ve got any questions. We’re a really friendly team.”

“If people want to ring us at three o’clock in the morning and ask us where they get a body bag from, we don’t mind because it means the patient is being looked after properly from the very beginning.” added Adam who took over as manager in September 2017. “So far we’ve had over 180 staff members come on a tour and feedback has been very positive.”

The pair are keen to encourage people to talk about death with their families, and make their preferences clear for organ and tissue donation.

“Do people talk enough about death? No, they don’t, not at all,” said Tarot. “Considering it’s one of the certainties of life, there’s too much stigma around it. For someone to know that when they pass away they can save and help so many lives, it makes such a huge difference.  Also, people need to let their families know because someone can be an organ donor but the family may say no at the time.”

Adam added: “We’d also like people to think about tissue donations. We’ve got a burns department that uses a lot of skin and bone products. All of those come from tissue donors.”

What do the pair find most challenging about their work?

“Every case we get is different. If you’ve got someone who has committed suicide, you’ve got to not take it personally, and not feel like you should have done something about it,” said Adam.

“We can have some very difficult cases that people might not realise we have to handle,” Tarot added. “You can come away at the end of a very difficult day and you need to talk to someone. We talk to each other and we have a very good support network for the traumatic cases.”