How to verify the death of a patient
Intended for healthcare professionals
how to series    

How to verify the death of a patient

Clare Elizabeth Churcher Senior Lecturer Adult Nursing, Faculty of Life Science and Education, University of South Wales, Pontypridd, Wales
Iwan Dowie Senior Lecturer in Healthcare Law, Faculty of Life Science and Education, University of South Wales, Pontypridd, Wales

Why you should read this article:
  • To understand the steps involved in verifying the death of a patient

  • To recognise when nurses are able to verify the death of a patient

  • To be aware of how the role of the nurse in verifying death may change during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic

When a patient dies, it is important that nurses understand their role in the verification of death. This article explains the steps required to verify the death of an adult patient. Verification of death is not a mechanistic task, but one that requires sensitivity and compassion. It is also crucial that nurses understand the legal implications of verifying a patient’s death. With the development of the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, nurses must also understand any changes in their role when verifying the death of a patient.

Verification or confirmation of death is the process of ascertaining whether a patient is deceased, based on a physical assessment.

Nurses can only verify a death if the patient is expected to die and has a do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (DNACPR) order in place. A DNACPR order is essential because it allows the nurse to verify the death without being concerned with the need to resuscitate the patient.

Nurses should ensure they act in accordance with local and national guidance regarding the verification of a patient’s death.

Reflective activity

How to articles can help to update your practice and ensure it remains evidence based. Apply this article to your practice. Reflect on and write a short account of:

How this article might inform your practice when verifying a patient’s death.

How you could use this information to educate your colleagues on the appropriate steps required when verifying a patient’s death.

Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2020.e11561

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software


Conflict of interest

None declared

Churcher CE, Dowie I (2020) How to verify the death of a patient. Nursing Standard. doi: 10.7748/ns.2020.e11561

Disclaimer Please note that information provided by Nursing Standard is not sufficient to make the reader competent to perform the task. All clinical skills should be formally assessed according to local policy and procedures. It is the nurse’s responsibility to ensure their practice remains up to date and reflects the latest evidence

Published online: 26 May 2020

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