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Who Are The Rightful Next Of Kin?

When bodies arrived at the Department of Forensic Medicine, the registration process will be conducted. The next process will be the release of the dead body to the next-of-kin or the rightful authorized representatives. The next-of-kin is also known as beneficiary who is the party that has a relationship of marriage, kinship or brotherhood, friend or employer of the deceased. While the authorize representatives are third parties whom obtain written consent from the next-of-kin or Embassy for further management of the bodies.

During the body claimant process, the next-of-kin must submit document proof that he is the rightful heir and closest to the deceased. For example, if the deceased is married, the closest heir was the husband or wife. In situation without husbang or wife claimant, the parent is the closest heir. If representatives are the claimant, the parties concerned must submit either a letter through the embassy representative (in the case of a foreigner) or a letter of authorization from the next-of-kin. The claimant also need to show the identification card to be copied and the duplicate will be stored along with information of deceased.

According to the established procedures, prior to claiming of the body, the claimant must confirm that the deceased is a member of his/her family to the claimant. He/she has to sign a confirmation form that the claimant has confirmed the deceased was a member of the family. Thereafter, the next-of-kin / representative should fill in the form and to obtain a copy of the National Registration Department form in order to apply for the death certificate at the National Registration Department within one week of the date of claim.

When the Department of Forensic Medicine received information from next-of-kin or representative who wants to claim the body, the counter staff will check in advance whether the body is being under the custody of  police or not. If the case is categorised as a police case, forensic staff on duty at the counter would call the police to get clearance. If the approval letter is obtained or the police have given permission to release the body involved, the body will be released to the claimant.

For all cases of death, the next-of-kin will be led into the mortuary to identify the body in order to make sure no error occur during the release If the next-of-kin has confirmed that the body is one of the member of the family, the release can be proceeded.

Sometimes there might be a slight misunderstanding between family members in claiming the body. This is because there is a disagreement regarding which party should claim. In this case, the rightful next-of-kin will be given the right to claim. If the deceased has more than one wife, then the Department of Forensic Medicine will provide an opportunity for those involved to discuss in advance so that all can be managed safely and securely. However, if one of the spouses has claimed the body, then initial wife who has claimed will be entitled because he is the next-of-kin. This is true if one of the spouses first come to make the claim.

According to the standards set by the Department of Forensic Medicine, for all cases categorized as normal death, the hand-over of the body to the next-of-kin must not exceed 3 hours of the time when the body was registered with the Department of Forensic Medicine at the counter. However, the release will only be made if the next-of-kin or legal representative is present to claim at that time. There is also request from the next-of-kin for temporary storage for the relevant body while next-of-kin arrange for hearse and funeral arrangements. For medicolegal death for unusual case involving the police, the release of the dead body to relatives or representatives may delay due to autopsy procedure and other matters related to the investigation of the police.

Funeral arrangements, hearse and last rites are fully the responsibility of the next-of-kin or claimant’s representative. The Department of Forensic Medicine will not interfere in the operations. However, the Department of Forensic Medicine will only provide the venue for the body handling. In addition, not all of the Department of Forensic Medicine in Ministry of Health hospitals has sufficient place provided for handling of the funeral arrangements.

If the deceased body registered at the Department of Forensic Medicine has no next-of-kin or relatives but if the next-of-kin does not want to make claimant, then the body will be managed by the hospital through the legally appointed religious department. For any deceased body with valid identity, the Department will ask the police to search for next-of-kin based on the available identity. If within 3 days (for the body of Muslims) and 14 days (for the body of non-Muslims) the body still not subject for claimant, the hospital will take over the management of the bodies without the need to inform the next-of-kin concerned. In the case of the police, permission is needed from the police and the embassy (for natural death for foreign nationals).

Last Reviewed : 23 August 2019
Writer : Mohd Hilmi bin Saidin
Accreditor / Reviewer : Dr. Khoo Lay See