Port of Spain Bereavement Pack
Information sheet relating to deaths in Trinidad and Tobago
The death of a relative or a friend can be a traumatic experience. When the death occurs overseas, family and friends in the UK can feel additional distress as they are unfamiliar with foreign procedures and perhaps are unable to communicate in the language of the country where the death occurred. Consular Directorate of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and our High Commission in Trinidad & Tobago are ready to help as far as they can. You may be uncertain about what to do next or who to contact for advice. These notes are designed to help you through the practical arrangements you will need to make. You should be aware that Trinidad & Tobago procedures differ significantly to those in the United Kingdom and that, while we understand your need for arrangements to be made quickly, this is not always possible.
The information contained in this document is not meant to be a definitive statement of the law, nor is it to be taken as a substitute for independent legal advice.
In both Trinidad & Tobago a post-mortem must be carried out to establish the cause of a sudden death of a foreign national. Post-mortems are usually carried out within 2-3 days from the deceased being placed in the public mortuary or is part of a police investigation. A copy of the death certificate is provided to the next of kin.
A copy of the post-mortem report is not usually provided to the family. The British High Commission can request a copy on behalf of the next of kin, although it is more usually done on behalf of the local British Coroner conducting an inquest into the death.
There have been no documented cases of a hospital or mortuary seeking to retain organs of foreign persons, either with or without the consent of the next of kin.
There are mortuary facilities at the major Public Hospitals; Port of Spain General Hospital, San Fernando General Hospital, Eric Williams Sciences Complex, Scarborough General Hospital (Tobago) and the Forensic Sciences Complex which maintains a limited number of cold storage areas. All major funeral directors in Trinidad & Tobago maintain cold storage areas also and, except in a case where mass casualties may arise, these facilities are adequate.
Repatriation and Burial
Following the issue of the death certificate, an inspector from the Department of Health will examine the body to ensure there are no communicable diseases and verify the embalming documentation. Once this has been carried out satisfactorily the funeral directors chosen will make arrangements for repatriation.
There are facilities in Trinidad & Tobago catering for Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish burial. There are also cremation facilities. If a local burial or cremation takes place, it will not be possible for an inquest into the death to take place in the UK.
Documentation: Once this has been carried out satisfactorily the funeral directors will make arrangements for repatriation.
Registration of the death
The Trinidad & Tobago Authorities will issue a death certificate in English. This is likely to be issued within 2 days of the post-mortem. Trinidad & Tobago death certificates do give details of the cause of death, as would be the case in the UK.
Deaths in Trinidad & Tobago may be registered with the General Register Office in the United Kingdom. This form of death registration is not compulsory. However, the advantages are that you will have a British form of a death certificate and a permanent and accessible record of the death will be kept at the General Register Office in the United Kingdom. Register a death abroad
To receive a British form death certificate, an application should be made to the General Register Office in the United Kingdom along with the local original death certificate and documentary evidence of nationality (e.g. British passport). There is a statutory fee, details of which can be obtained online
Return of Personal Effects
The International funeral directors do not accept personal effects as a matter of course. The Directors will arrange for the deceased to be repatriated in the clothes they were wearing or a ‘suit of clothing’ that is requested for purchase by the director as per instruction by the next of kin. In the case of a tourist with no accompanying companion or friends, the hotel or tour operator will usually be asked to liaise and return personal effects to the next of kin.