When a loved one dies in intensive care

Despite the best efforts of our Fiona Stanley Hospital and Rockingham General Hospital (external site) intensive care unit (ICU) staff, sadly some patients are too ill to recover and do not survive.

This may be sudden and unexpected, but often there are warning signs that your loved one is not responding to treatment. In this case, our intensive care staff may have time to prepare you for the possibility that your loved one may not recover. This may include an explanation to you that some forms of intensive care treatment are not helping and so may be stopped.

About organ and tissue donation

Sometimes a patient’s next-of-kin and family members may be approached to discuss organ and tissue donation. This is when a person who has died (a donor) donates their organs or tissues to another person (a recipient). These are used to replace damaged organs or tissue of other people through a life-saving medical procedure called a transplant. Read more about organ and tissue donation (Healthy WA).

The way in which a person dies affects which of their organs and tissues can be donated. To ensure donated organs and tissue are in a suitable condition for transplant, the donor needs to die in the hospital, generally while on a ventilator in ICU.

If you loved one is registered as an organ or tissue donor, specialist medical and nursing teams will discuss organ and tissue donation with your family.

Knowing your loved one’s wishes regarding organ and tissue donation can help in making the right decision for your family. Most families who agree to donate one or more of the patient’s organs or tissues find it comforting that something positive will come from their loss.

Your loved one’s medical and nursing staff, as well as a donation specialist, will be available to support and inform you and ensure your loved one’s care, dignity and respect are always maintained.

About end-of-life care

Where death is imminent, staff may talk to the patient and family members regarding or end-of-life, or palliative care.

End-of-life care focuses on treating and relieving the patient’s symptoms, pain and discomfort to make them as comfortable as possible during this difficult stage.

Another important element of end-or-life care is ensuring family members are supported and informed of their loved one’s condition and care during their last days or hours of life.

After your loved one dies

We are here to support you after the death of a loved one. You will be offered access to social workers, religious support, and the support of our nursing and medical staff. We will try to assist you with practical information and to answer any questions you may have.

Until you make plans with your chosen funeral director, you can take comfort knowing the hospital will care for your loved one.

It may help you to talk to a bereavement counsellor at this difficult time. They can offer support and understanding for adults and children.

Return to ICU information for family and friends

Button reads ICU family journey

Contact our ICUs

Contact the ICU at Fiona Stanley Hospital or Rockingham General Hospital (external site).