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Dominican Republic - Death

When someone dies the first thing to do is to call the coroner who will certify death. This is usually done by the hospital, the doctor or the police. In the case of expats, if they die outside of a hospital the attending police will be the tourist police, known as Politur, even if the expat is a resident. It is wise to immediately remove all jewelry from the body, otherwise in many cases the Politur will take it. The expat should also be aware that in many cases the surviving relative will be arrested for investigation especially in cases of a sudden death or one that occurs in the home. In the case of most Dominicans they will then go to a local funeral parlour, choose the coffin and the body will then be placed in the coffin and taken to the house. The average price for a coffin is RD$12,000 which is roughly US$300. The body will normally be covered in talcum powder and placed in a prominent position in the home. The living room will be turned into a shrine with photographs of the deceased and the television removed. Upper middle class and upper class Dominicans will usually have the body taken to a funeral parlour and the viewing of the body will take place there.

Outside a carpa or tarpaulin will be erected to shade people from the sun or protect them from the rain. People will begin to arrive at the house and the wake goes on all night. Coffee will be drunk and sometimes rum, and the close family wails a lot and sometimes become so hysterical that they pass out. The next day, the funeral directors will send a hearse, usually around 10am and the body will be taken to the local graveyard. If it is a nice coffin, it will then be hacked to pieces with a machete so that no one will steal it. The coffin will then be placed in a shallow grave. For the next nine days the family will be in mourning and then on the ninth day the carpa is put up again, everyone will wear black or white and it is the final day of mourning. The following morning the living room is put back to the way it was before.

If an expat or non Dominican dies, by international law they have to have an autopsy. There is one main funeral director for expats, Blandino, and if their services are required they will arrange for the autopsy. Otherwise the police will take the body to the nearest centre where autopsies are arranged. Once the autopsy has been performed, the body is then released and Blandino will arrange burial, cremation and the delivery of the ashes. They will also arrange for repatriation of the body if required. A Dominican death certificate will be issued, and at the same time the death should be registered at the appropriate embassy.

Useful Resources

Blandino funeral directors

Capilla La Paz, Distrito Nacional
Av. Abraham Lincoln #62, P.O. Box 2660
Santo Domingo
Tel.: 809 533-3232

To call for coroner to certify death
Tel: 809 682 8376

This guide was compiled with the help of Lindsay de Feliz, a British expat blogger living in the Dominican Republic. Visit her blog at yoursaucepans.blogspot.com.

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