State Mortuary and Bereavement Centre

After the sudden death of your loved one

PathWest offers our sincerest condolences for your loss. The following information may offer some assistance to you and your understanding of our role during this difficult time.

The grieving process is a very personal journey that is different for each person. For some people it is an important part of the process to be able to see their loved one. Our Bereavement Centre has viewing rooms where the next of kin can see and spend some time with their loved one.

These viewings are by appointment as arranged with our Bereavement Liaison Officer.

As part of the legal requirements of the coronial process, it is necessary for a deceased person to be identified. This may be conducted visually by the next of kin and in the presence of a police officer. Formal identifications can be facilitated at our Bereavement Centre and are arranged by WA Police.

By law, the coronial process requires a medical examination to take place to assist the Coroner in determining the cause and manner of death. This examination is called a post mortem or autopsy. While it may seem, in some cases, that the cause of death is obvious, it is still necessary for the Coroner to advocate for the deceased and ensure that a cause of death is determined. In addition to determining a cause of death there are other reasons for an autopsy to be performed – you can learn more about this below, under the heading ‘Post mortem/Autopsy’.

The Coronial process may take some time to be completed and your loved one will stay at the State Mortuary until the Coroner instructs that they may be released following all legal requirements. During this time we encourage next of kin to begin making funeral arrangements, so as to minimise delays in proceeding with the funeral once the Coroner issues the release authority following funeral arrangers request to claim the body.

Further information and resources 

Death certificate

If the death is subject to a coronial inquiry, the death will still be registered by the Funeral Director. However, until such time as the State Coroner completes their inquiry, the cause of death will not be stated. This is called an “incomplete” death registration. A ‘complete’ death certificate may be issued once the Coroner's finding is issued.

If a medical certificate cause of death is provided (non-coronial deaths) then following registration of a death, a death certificate will be issued. For more information contact the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages on 1300 305 021 or visit their website.

Funeral costs

The choice of how you arrange the funeral is yours and you may begin making arrangements as soon as you can.  The Metropolitan Cemetaries Board offers guidance on their website.

Prior to arranging payment of the funeral costs, you may wish to contact the deceased's bank. Although funds are frozen, if there are enough funds available in their account, the bank will usually release funds for the purpose of the funeral.

Further assistance with funeral costs may be found from the following resources:

  • Assistance with funeral costs may be provided by means of a death benefit through private health insurance, car insurance (in the event of a driver fatality or superannuation).
  • If the fatality occurs due to a road crash trauma then the Insurance Commission of WA may be able to assist with funeral and memorial costs or reimburse costs.
  • The Bereavement Assistance Program may provide financial support to families in situations where there are insufficient funds in a deceased person’s estate to pay for a funeral.
  • Services Australia (Centrelink) offer useful advice on their website and can provide bereavement payments for those eligible.
  • Public Trustee offers a range of free and fee-based community services including administration of deceased estates. They may take on the role of administrator if there is no Will.

Bereavement support services

  • Neami National provides a comprehensive resource list for support after suicide or sudden lost. You can learn more about this on their website.
  • Your local GP is also available to support you and assist you to connect with support services. They may provide you with a Mental Health Treatment Plan, under which you can access up to 20 individual sessions with eligible mental health providers per calendar year with rebates. It is suggested you request or try to connect with someone who specialises in grief and bereavement.
  • Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement is a nationwide informative service.
  • 24/7 services include: Lifeline (131114) and Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467)
  • Other services (not 24 hours) include: Griefline (1300 845 745) and QLife (1800 184 527).

Understanding what next of kin means

The senior next of kin in relation to the deceased means the first person who is available from the categories of persons referred to in section 37(5) of the Coroners Act 1996 (WA), in the order of priority listed in that sub section. A Coroner’s brochure entitled “When a person dies suddenly” is served upon the senior next of kin by attending police officers as soon as possible following a death. The next of kin is any of the persons defined under section 37(5). The law has granted the next of kin some rights, set out in section 20 of the Coroners Act. The senior next of kin has all of the rights of a next of kin. In addition the senior next of kin has the right to object to a post mortem examination; and the right to access to evidence.

37(5)(b) A person who immediately before death was legally married to the person. 
 37(5)(c)  A son or daughter who is of or over the age of 18 years of the person.
 37(5)(d)  A parent of the person.
 37(5)(e)  A brother or sister, who is of or over the age of 18 years, of the person.
 37(5)(f)  An executor named in the will of the person or a person who, immediately before the death was a personal representative of the person.
 37(5)(g)  Any person nominated by the person to be contacted in an emergency.

Learn more about post mortem/autopsy

A post mortem examination is a detailed medical examination of the body of a person who has died, undertaken for the purpose of investigating the death. The extent of the examination varies from a non-invasive examination to a full invasive examination, depending on the case. Post mortem examinations are performed at the direction of the coroner by experienced forensic pathologists. Forensic pathologists will use of the least invasive procedures that are available and appropriate in the conduct of post mortem examinations. The appropriateness of a non-invasive examination involves forensic pathologists recommending to the coroner, where considered appropriate, that an external post mortem examination including a computerised tomography (CT) scan together with a review of available medical records and/or toxicological information is sufficient to enable them to form an opinion on cause of death. Forensic pathologists then prepare a confidential report for the coroner and provide an opinion on the cause of death. The post mortem report may also provide information that is relevant to manner of death. The coroner takes this information into account when making a finding.

All non-coronial post mortems are performed at Fiona Stanley Hospital. Contact the PathWest Coordinator on (08) 6152 5218 for more information.


All WA coronial post mortems are performed at the PathWest State Mortuary in Nedlands, Perth. They can take 1-2 weeks to be completed dependant on various factors.

A post mortem is a step-by-step examination of the body, both external and internal, by a doctor known as a pathologist. Small samples of tissue are routinely taken for further analysis. All organs are returned to the body at the end of the examination.

Post mortem examinations may also include tests for infections (microbiology), changes in body tissue and organs (anatomical histology) and chemicals eg medication, drugs or poisons (toxicology and pharmacology). It can take some time for the results of these tests to be provided.

It may be necessary to retain organs for a more detailed examination; this is called ‘organ retention’ and will be discussed with you by the Coronial Counselling Service to discuss options available to the family.

While a body is under the control of the coroner investigating the death, the coroner is to ensure that any of the deceased person’s next of kin (as defined in the Coroners Act) who wish to view the body are permitted to do so and any of those persons who wish to touch the body are permitted to do so, unless the coroner determines that it is undesirable or dangerous to do so. Next of kin can contact the Bereavement Centre on 6383 4895 to arrange to view their loved one whilst they are held at the State Mortuary. Generally prior to a post mortem, you will need to view your loved one behind a glass door.

It is your right to object to a post mortem. An objection to a post mortem needs to be lodged by phone or email to the Coroner’s Office or with the Coronial Police as soon as possible.

If the Coroner accepts the objection, instead of an internal post mortem examination the coroner is likely to direct the forensic pathologist to perform an external post mortem examination. An external post mortem consists of a visual inspection by a pathologist, review of medical history, blood and urine testing and a CT scan – there is no internal examination of the deceased.

It is important to note that while the Coroner will accept most objections the Coroner can legally reject an objection to post-mortem if the need for internal post-mortem is deemed necessary.

If the Coroner accepts the objection, instead of an internal post mortem examination the coroner is likely to direct the forensic pathologist to perform an external post mortem examination, a copy of the post mortem report can be made available to the senior next-of-kin through a nominated doctor. The doctor can then explain the medical terminology in depth.

The senior next of kin can contact the Coroner's Court in writing or email, stating their name and relation to the deceased. Include the name and address of the doctor to whom they would like the report to be sent.

The Coroner's finding will be mailed to the next-of-kin at the completion of the investigation.

Last Updated: 01/12/2021