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Procedure Properties

Title: Death
Category: Safety and Security
Version: 02
Implement Date: 24 December 2008
Application: Custodial Operations
Availability: Public


Appendices and Forms


Performance Measures

  • Death rate (unnatural)
  • Indigenous status

Procedure - Death

1.Anticipated deaths
2.Unanticipated deaths
3.Queensland Ambulance Service
4.Assessment of life extinct by clinical nurses


To ensure that an offender facing death will be given respect and dignity whilst complying with the legal and medical requirements of a death in custody.

1. Anticipated deaths

If death is expected as a result of illness, the offender's treating Doctor must ensure that both the general manager of the facility and the Senior Director, Offender Health Services Branch, Queensland Health are aware of the offender's medical progress, with a view to having the offender transferred to a health facility not within a corrective services facility.

2. Unanticipated deaths

Refer procedure - First Officer Response - Medical and Assault

All deaths in custody are subject to a coronial inquiry and must be reported to the Coroner by staff of the Queensland Police Service.

Queensland Health centre staff will be expected to provide a report on their findings at the time of first seeing the deceased, if death is unexpected. Refer procedure - Incident Reporting (in-confidence)

Standard precautions should be utilised in dealing with any body secretions. Refer procedure - Infection Control

Resuscitation measures take priority over preserving the scene for the coronial inquiry. The scene should only be disturbed to the extent needed to provide appropriate medical attention (refer procedure - Preservation of a Crime Scene and Evidence).

Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) should be commenced and/or continued until health services staff determine that clear and irrefutable evidence shows death has occurred. If any doubt exists, staff should continue CPR. Decisions to cease CPR prior to the arrival of the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) may require justification at a coronial enquiry.

QAS should not be called if there is clear evidence the offender is deceased.

If it is determined that the offender is dead, the visiting doctor must be advised. It will not be necessary for the visiting doctor to attend the facility, as the registered nurse will be able to complete the life extinct form. Indications that the offender cannot be resuscitated include-

  1. post mortem stasis;
  2. rigour mortis; and/or
  3. the injury is such that life could not be sustained.

Two complete copies of the Queensland Health offender's medical chart must be made as soon as possible. The original must be collected by the Corrective Services Investigations Unit (CSIU) for the Coroner's inquiry. Appropriate recording must be maintained showing that the Police have taken the file, including the name and designation of the Police / CSIU Officer concerned. One copy is kept in the Queensland Health centre, and one copy is forwarded to the Senior Director, Offender Health Services Branch, Queensland Health. Ensure that any additions to the chart after this are also photocopied and held by the health centre and the Senior Director, Offender Health Services Branch.

Queensland Health centre staff must attend a debriefing session provided by the preferred counselling provider.

A copy of the incident report must be faxed through to the Senior Director, Offender Health Services Branch as soon as completed. Notification by phone should also be made during office hours.

The body of an offender must only be removed from the scene of death after authorisation has been provided by the CSIU and life extinct has been certified by a visiting doctor or registered nurse.

The deceased body must not to be laid out by health centre staff. Police will arrange removal by an undertaker or mortician.

3. Queensland Ambulance Service

Queensland Ambulance Service staff will transport an offender on the recommendation of health services staff unless life is extinct.

Paramedics are able to determine that life is extinct and in such cases are not obliged to transport the body. Instead, the body is left with a responsible person. Either the doctor on call or the registered nurse will certify life extinct or the body is transported via the nearest public hospital for this purpose. Refer procedure - Ambulance Services

4. Assessment of life extinct by clinical nurses

A registered nurse must complete administrative form - Notification of Life Extinct.

In cases of death in custody, a death certificate can only be issued after a post mortem has been performed unless the Coroner gives authorisation to do otherwise.

Neil Whittaker
Acting Director-General

Version History

24/12/2008 Version 02 - 28/08/2006 Version 01