When You Die, You’re No Longer a Person

Die, death, and dying

A dear friend was admitted to the ICU at a local hospital after an arduous battle with cancer. Her family lives on the West Coast and told me the doctors didn’t think she’d make it. I rushed  to the hospital and sat with her for a few hours as she drifted in and out of consciousness. I’d like to think she knew I was there.

Early the next morning, I called the hospital to find out her condition. “We don’t have a patient by that name, ” they told me

“Of course you do. I was at her bedside a few hours ago,” I said, a bit annoyed about the bureaucratic inefficiencies.

My call was transferred to the medical unit where they told me she had been discharged. “Of course she wasn’t.” Now I was really annoyed. “She didn’t just walk out of there,” I snapped.

When you die in the hospital

I tried, but I couldn’t deny the awful truth. My friend had passed away. I was the last person to see her alive, other than the medical staff. Now there was no record of her being a patient in the hospital.

When you die, you’re no longer a person.

Who is your executor?

I wrote on this blog and in Gold Diggers and Deadbeat Dads about “Diane.” She wanted me to be co-executor with her cousin of her estate. I refused. I told her I’d gladly serve as her sole executor or a contingent executor. But there were too many potential problems if I carried out this critical task with a stranger. I was relieved that she named another friend as co-executor.

Is your will up to date? Who is your executor? Are you confident they will carry out your wishes?

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Related posts:

Why I Refuse to be Co-executor of Your Will
You’re in a Coma: What are the Financial Consequences?
Too Much Power in Your Power of Attorney?
Update – Powerful Power of Attorney
Dying Words

Image © iStock.com/peebert


  1. This post grabbed me — your final line and title of the same name is too true. I’ve watched it happen. Well written in getting an important point across!

  2. Thank you, Carol. Becoming a non-person was something I never thought about before. The hospital hesitated to give me information because I wasn’t immediate family. I should have lied.

  3. Garry Rodgers says:

    Good post, Valerie, and I’m sorry to hear that you lost a friend to that nasty disease.

    During my time as a coroner, I had a LOT of dealings with bureaucratic inefficiencies in hospitals. When a person dies in hospital they officially discharge them… to the morgue. Often the wards don’t inform the next-of-kin, rather the family shows up for a visit only to be told the patient was discharged. They’re sent to admitting to look up who the discharge was made to and then, after having to prove their relationship, find out about the death from a clerk. Terrible.

    • Garry, thanks for stopping by. Few people are “death experts” so it’s helpful to hear from a coroner. I wish my experience was a one-off so I’m horrified to hear that it’s not unusual for the news to be conveyed in an insensitive way. Fortunately, my friend’s immediate family was notified as soon as she passed. I got the run around for a few hours because I wasn’t on “the list.”

      Thank you for sharing your unique perspective.

  4. Short, succinct and immensely eye-opening. So glad you were with your friend. So interesting, the bureaucratic take on things . . .

    • Thank you, Diane. Please read Mr. Rodgers’ comment below. As a former coroner, he confirmed that the hospitals sometimes handle patient deaths in an insensitive manner.