The mortuary’s work covers a wide variety of areas including consented post mortems, routine coroner’s post mortem to establish causes of death, forensic post mortems and high risk post mortems as well as being a regional perinatal centre (still births and miscarriages) serving south London and southeast England.
Barbara Peters, senior technologist, leads on the perinatal post mortems, and works closely with the maternity services and bereavement nurses. She said: “The job is nothing like the portrayal you see on the TV, or on the other hand, the stereotypical stigma people associate with mortuaries – we are just very normal people.”
The unit does not only cater for the deceased, it also needs to consider those left behind, and a modern viewing suite provides an area where parents and family members can pay their respects to their loved-ones.
Barbara said: “The service is a credit to St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; professional colleagues from other hospitals visit us for ideas for their own viewing suites.”
Although the viewing suite is non-denomination, it includes a compass on the floor showing north, south, east and west, so families can use this as a point of reference if their religion dictates it, and artefacts for each of the main religions are available, so the room can be set out as the family would wish.
Robin Dobinson, mortuary manager, said: “Families should come and go without having to see anyone else, so each viewing is as private as possible. We aim to run an excellent department that offers a respectful and professional service.”
But apart from the busy day-to-day life they lead, emergency situations do arise and team members can be called to major international emergencies to offer expert advice on identifying bodies.
Robin has been involved with major incidents such as the 7/7 bombings and the Clapham Rail Disaster. He was invited to Buckingham Palace for recognition of work and services during the 7/7 bombings for the three weeks identification process.