Health

GP ‘told widow to certify her husband’s body by filming it on chat link’ 

‘We were gobsmacked’: GP told widow to certify her husband’s body by filming it on chat link, her friend reveals

  • An elderly woman was forced to certify her husband’s death over video call
  • She was told her GP would not travel to her home where her husband died 
  • In the video chat the widow was told to ‘hold the camera to the dead body’ 

An elderly woman was forced to certify her husband’s death over a video call after being told her GP would not visit her home.

The widow lost her husband, who was 80 and had terminal cancer, shortly after 4pm on a weekday earlier this month.

She called her local GP surgery and was told the doctor would be in touch shortly.

But when the GP phoned back, more than 90 minutes later, he said he would not be coming to the house, according to Moira Evans, a friend of the widow.

She told The Daily Telegraph: ‘He then sent a link to a video chat [and said], ‘Hold the camera to the dead body’.

An elderly woman was forced to certify her husband’s death over a video call after being told her GP would not visit her home

‘My friend at this point said, ‘I can’t, can you do it please, Moira?’, and so I did it.’

Mrs Evans added: ‘The procedure of having to do this on video… we were gobsmacked.

‘You just assume when somebody dies in your home that somebody’s going to come out and have a tiny bit of compassion in there.’

Mrs Evans says she was asked to hold the phone to the man’s face, and the doctor then asked: ‘Can you hold it a bit lower so I can see his chest?’

Less than a minute after the video call started, he said, ‘OK, I’ve seen enough’, and explained that a death certificate would be issued.

The widow and the location of her local GP surgery have not been identified. 

Face-to-face appointments with GPs have become rarer following the pandemic, leaving many patients having to speak to their doctor over the phone or on a video call.

But Dennis Reed, from Silver Voices, which campaigns for older people, said: ‘This is taking remote healthcare much too far. 

‘It would have been completely traumatic for someone whose husband had just died to have to help to certify his death.

Face-to-face appointments with GPs have become rarer following the pandemic, leaving many patients having to speak to their doctor over the phone or on a video call

Face-to-face appointments with GPs have become rarer following the pandemic, leaving many patients having to speak to their doctor over the phone or on a video call

‘Confirming someone has died is one of the key things a GP has always done and should continue to do, and it is just outrageous this was done on a video call.’

An NHS spokesman said: ‘Verification of death should be carried out in person by a qualified health professional in a sensitive and compassionate manner.’

The latest provisional figures on GP appointments for July show less than 1 per cent are home visits. Before Covid, around 80 per cent of GP appointments were face to face, but this fell to 47 per cent in April 2020, and is still below 65 per cent.

Almost a third of appointments are done over the phone and 0.5 per cent over video or online.

In the case of the elderly widow, she was told, ‘[GPs] don’t come out any more to certify death, that you have to do it yourself on a smartphone’, according to Mrs Evans.

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