Till GP, Coroner and Undertaker Do Us Part

13th June 2024

Tim Quinn is a local writer, editor, and artist known for his work with Marvel Comics. Mr Quinn submitted this guest post to ots@otsnews.co.uk

Jane and I were in love. That simple fact must be understood for the full horror of the following story to be felt.

We’d met back in 1986, thirty-eight years ago, at Heathrow Airport of all places. Jane was American while I was Liverpudlian. Our love was all encompassing and instant despite the inconvenient fact that she was already married. But we were not the kind of people who would let enraged husbands, US government or Immigration Departments come between us, and soon we were living happily ever after. Recognising the stupidity of working for other people and being parted from each other for most of the day, we started our own company, Mighty Quinn Management, working in publishing, television and music. Our love grew, if that were possible.

And then, like a bomb blast, Jane was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2001. It had grown for twenty years thanks to doctors in both the UK and US disregarding Jane’s complaints of headaches as being due to stress or time of life. It was an optician who finally diagnosed the real cause. Operation after operation and radiation followed. And then Jane was put on a daily dose of statins, which ended up having 52 side effects, including a burst bowel.

By 2015 Jane’s medical history looked like a stack of old telephone directories piled on top of each other. By 2024, Jane was housebound and life consisted of bed to living room chair and bathroom. Having said that, we still laughed every day, including the 21st of January when she collapsed on her way back from the bathroom. 999 responded in minutes but after 90 minutes of CPR, the game was up. Not for a second did I wonder what had happened. At age 74, after 23 years of medical hellish problems, Jane’s body finally gave out. Simple fact.

The two medics on hand gave me a booklet titled: ‘Help After the Death of a Loved One’. Page 1 informed me that the most important thing I must do at once was to notify the DHSS. My wife was still lying on my living room floor as I read those words and tossed the book into a waste paper basket. The medic told me that I would be contacted by the Coroner within three days who would give me next instructions. It being the year 2024, I guaranteed the medic that I knew I would receive no call within that time limit.

There was a knock at my door and I opened it to find a policeman who told me his appearance was pure procedure when someone died at home. He told me that he would need to take a statement. His first question was: ‘What is your preferred pronoun?’ I told him to have a guess and that I’d be happy going along with whatever he chose. And then I had second thoughts. ‘Actually, in your report I’d like to be referred to as the ‘Resident Alien’. That was the title on my identity card when I first went over to the US while waiting on my Green Card.

In the year 2024, I find the title is more relevant than ever before to my place on this planet.

Two people I can only describe as weirdoes arrived next and told me they were from the mortuary. They had the vibe of those two camp Bond villains from ‘Diamonds are Forever’. It took them mere moments before they were handing me Jane’s rings and earrings. A strange moment as Jane and I had been drinking tea together a couple of hours before. Four days went by without any word from the Coroner. Wanting to move ahead with things, I called her up at the number given.

‘You are number 45 in the queue. Your call is important to us.’

One hour later, I was speaking to a human being who put me through to the Coroner’s Assistant’s office. ‘There’s nobody here today. Please try again.’

Same rigmarole the following day but this time the Coroner’s Assistant was in. I asked to speak to the Coroner herself.

‘Oh no. The Coroner doesn’t speak to people.’

Hearing those words I knew this was not going to be a pleasant experience. The CA explained that she was waiting on our GP to sign off Jane’s body so that they could instruct me to move ahead with the undertaker.

‘I’ll chase the GP up today,’ she promised.

I had already decided that there would be no funeral as such. I wasn’t even planning on being at the crematorium. I didn’t like the theatrics of coffin moving along the conveyor belt and closing curtains. They simply weren’t Jane. All I wanted was to instruct the undertaker to bring me the ashes, swiftly. I didn’t like the thought of Jane still being in a body bag in some ghastly morgue. That evening, a Friday, at five to five, the phone rang. It was the CA to tell me that she had spoken to the GP and he wasn’t happy to release the body as he didn’t know the cause of death. He claimed he hadn’t seen Jane at the surgery in over a year and so was calling for a post mortem. I hit the roof. Under no circumstances was I going to allow these meatheads to butcher Jane. They had cut, probed and prodded her for twenty-three years. Enough!

The simple fact was that Jane had been at the GPs surgery three days before she died. She had been in such a bad way that she hadn’t been able to make it from the car to the door of the surgery and a nurse had to come out to take bloods as Jane sat in the car. Also, she had been seen at the surgery many times in the past year. A look at Jane’s medical history, which had been compared to several telephone directories, would have given a clue as to her death. There’s only so much a body can take at age seventy-four.

I hurried round to the surgery, demanding to see the head doctor, a man by the name of Dr Roseberry. I told the receptionist my problem and she disappeared to inform Dr Roseberry. Fifteen minutes later she returned to say: “The doctor says…”

I stopped her there. “You mean he doesn’t see fit to come and talk to me himself over this matter?”

The receptionist then said the worst possible thing she could: “He’s very busy.”

She went on to tell me that he said he hadn’t been aware of this problem and thought it must have been a junior doctor who had refused to sign off on Jane. I was told that the doctor said he would raise this issue at the doctors’ meeting first thing on Monday morning. I informed the receptionist that I would be there. “That’s not allowed,” she informed me.

The following Monday morning I arrived at the surgery at 15 minutes to opening time. The rain was lashing down and there was already a queue stretching from the door across the car park. Many old, sick people in that queue. I hammered on the door and it was opened by an officious receptionist who informed me: “You can’t come in until 8!” before slamming the door in my face.

At 8, I entered and wandered the building until I heard voices from a meeting room. I entered the room and was told I wasn’t allowed in there. I told them that I was not leaving until I had told them how badly both my wife and I had been treated by the surgery in the last week. I explained that after 23 years of intense medical problems Jane’s body had simply given out and that it was my desire as her grieving husband to get through this bureaucratic nonsense as swiftly as possible. I told them that one look at the extent of Jane’s medical records should prove enough to sign off on her body. Dr Roseberry looked me in the eye throughout, a seemingly compassionate look on his face. Next to him stood the head of his management team whose face remained impassive throughout. At the end of my diatribe I informed them that I wanted 3 things resolved that day. 1. An apology from the practice for putting Jane and I though such turmoil. 2. Information as to how the junior doctor involved was to be reprimanded. 3. The release of Jane’s body to the Coroner. Dr Roseberry came over, shook my hand and told me: “I will make this my priority today.”

Imagine my horror, at 5pm that day when I received an email from the surgery informing me that after due consideration they were not going to release Jane’s body and were insisting on a post mortem. No mention of the junior doctor. No apology. Indeed, they finished the email by telling me that if I had concerns in the future to make an appointment. The letter was signed by: The Cumberland House Management Team. No signature. The walls had gone up.

Here is that email:

Dear Mr Quinn

Following your unexpected arrival this morning at the practice and your request for Dr Roseberry to issue a death certificate today, the matter was discussed as a GP Partnership, as well as further discussion with Sefton Coroners Office, and unfortunately we cannot grant your request.

We recognise this is not the outcome you had hoped to receive and can only empathise with the distress you have experienced in the last week. By way of explanation, whilst your wife had a large number of medical problems it was not clear which had caused her unexpected death, and as such this left the GP’s unable to give a specific cause of death resulting in the involvement of the Coroners Office.

We hope you can accept this as a final decision from the Cumberland House GP Partnership as a whole. We would also ask that you do not enter a clinician’s consulting room without prior appointment to discuss your own personal medical matters.


Cumberland House Surgery Management Team

I contacted the Coroner’s Assistant and told her that under no circumstance did I agree to an autopsy. I suggested that they take a look at Jane’s medical records and come to their own decision as to why a 74 year old woman died after 23 years of health issues from hell. In response I was sent a goddamn brochure, a coverall with zero relation to my wife’s problems. I demanded to speak to the Coroner herself. “That’s not allowed. She doesn’t speak to people.” Unbelievable.

At 8:30am this Monday morning I was called by the Coroner’s Assistant to be told that the post mortem would be going ahead within the hour at Whiston Hospital. I told the assistant that I demanded to be there if they were insisting on butchering my wife’s body. “That’s not allowed.”

I called up Whiston and got in touch with the head of the post mortem team. For the first time since my wife’s death I found myself talking to a human being. He told me he would delay the post mortem until I could race to the hospital. Once there, he and a colleague sat me down and listened to my story. He nodded in agreement that the problem lay with the GP’s management team. “A not uncommon problem.” He agreed that no common sense was in place with the people I had been dealing with. The Coroner’s Assistant had told me that if Jane had been 80 years of age, the likelihood of cause of death would have been written off as old age. I had explained that 23 years of horrific medical issues had aged her way beyond her years.

And so, Jane’s body was torn apart so these meatheads could have one final piece of paper to sign off on and file where the sun don’t shine. The Coroner’s office sent me the following report: Jane’s cause of death is listed as 1a) Pulmonary Embolism 2) Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Hypertension.

Those findings help nobody. The abuse of my wife’s body remains with me 24 hours of each day and the fact that I failed her at the end due to these faceless, nameless, heartless and compassionless people.

And then things got worse thanks to the Co-op’s so-called Funeralcare.

Having explained to their member of staff, Kayleigh, that my requirements were very simple and that I needed no other services than cremation, I was appalled a few days later to receive a telephone call from a head office in Leeds attempting to sell me various ‘special offers’ and products that I had already dismissed with Kayleigh. I found it extraordinary that my home telephone number had been passed onto these salesmen to make their money grabbing pitch.

Next, I received via email from the Co-op the most crass, disgusting piece of marketing I have seen in my life. It was a ratings chart like you might find in a teen girls’ magazine to rate your favourite popstar; five stars for excellent down to one star for poor. But this chart wasn’t for popstars, it was to rate the funeralcare for Jane Quinn. They actually used my wife’s name on this sickening illustration. When I wrote back to complain, I received no reply. Three days later I walked round to the undertakers to complain in person. A lady in charge of their operation said that she believed it was a very good chart to send to people who might want to review their funeral. I told her such a request was more suited to a pop concert not a funeral. She then offered me a cheap piece of junk urn to place my wife’s ashes in. When I asked her why my private email and telephone number were being bandied about inside the Co-op system she simply replied, “That’s our policy.” I certainly hope that is not true.

I told her she was making things worse and adding insult to injury. She refused to give me names higher up the command system of the Co-op for me to take this issue up with. I’ve found that in this Age of Communication, such people don’t like to communicate. Maybe that’s the Co-op’s policy. My Coroner and GP also suffer from this complaint.

So what do I want? Simple. I want to attempt to create an outcry so that GPs, coroners and undertakers no longer act in this disgraceful manner. I’m sure I’m not the only person to go through these horrors while grieving for a loved one. I don’t want anyone else to suffer in this way. It was all so unnecessary for greed or simple laziness. On behalf of these nitwits who should be going out of their way to help and make the process as simple as possible. After twenty-three years of being a carer for my darling wife, I suddenly had no say in the treatment of her body. That is unforgivable.