Report an unexpected or unexplained death

Members of the public and health professionals must report an unexpected or unexplained death they witnessed, following these steps.

How to report a death if you're a member of the public

Members of the public must report an unexpected death they witness by calling 911. The police will then report the death to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME).

When someone's death is expected and imminent, a physician gives instructions to their family about how to report the death without calling 911.

How to report a death if you're a physician

Physicians must report all unexpected or unexplained deaths to the OCME.

When a physician reports a death to the OCME, it doesn’t automatically mean that the OCME will take the case on. The OCME may talk to the physician about the deceased’s medical history and circumstances of death, and then advise the physician to fill out the death certificate.

A physician in Alberta may only write a death certificate for deaths that are natural in cause and manner.

A physician must report any of these deaths to the OCME:

  • unexplained deaths
  • unexpected deaths when in apparent good health
  • deaths due to violence, accident or suicide
  • maternal deaths
  • deaths due to negligent treatment by another
  • deaths during an operative procedure, which include:
    • deaths associated with anaesthesia
    • deaths within 10 days of an operation
  • poisoning deaths including medical assistance in dying
  • death of a person not under the care of a physician
  • deaths while in the custody of a peace officer
  • deaths due to force by a peace officer
  • deaths related to employment including:
    • disease
    • injury
    • toxicity
  • deaths while detained as a prisoner
  • deaths while detained under the Mental Health Act
  • deaths of children under guardianship or custody under the Child Youth and Family Enhancement Act

Medical information request

When the OCME investigates the death of a physician’s former patient, one of our medical investigators may ask the physician for access to the deceased’s medical records. Such a request:

A physician must then send a photocopy or scan of the deceased’s medical records to our medical investigators.

Our paper-based file reviews determine if we:

  • investigate someone's death, or
  • don't investigate someone's death