A full post mortem report may not be available for several days or even weeks, because
some laboratory tests do take a definite time to complete. The pathologist will give
the coroner preliminary findings as soon as possible, but the law requires pathologists
to report only to coroners and no-one else.
The coroner may be willing to inform you of any preliminary findings or to provide
you with a copy of a written report, when available, but coroners can refuse to do
so until after an inquest. This can cause difficulties if you then find you are not
satisfied with the post mortem findings and a funeral has taken place.
If you are not satisfied with the post mortem findings, you can request a separate
post mortem, to be done by a pathologist of your own choosing, but at your expense.
The coroner can refuse this request, but only for good reason. If you have been refused
a copy of the post mortem report, you should point out to the coroner that you cannot
know if you are satisfied with the pathologist's findings and you are being denied
the opportunity to request a separate post mortem. If a coroner’s refusal results
in insufficient enquiry, it can be challenged in the higher courts, but the procedures
are complex and costly. (Section 22)
Separate post mortems are not a welcome idea, but could be advisable if criminal
or civil proceedings are likely and you are not satisfied with the first post mortem
findings. You need to be aware that a potential defendant and other properly interested
persons can also request a separate post mortem and this can delay the funeral. (Section
You should always ask the coroner, in writing, for a copy of the pathologist’s actual
reports, not interpretations of them. If you are given a copy, but do not feel able
to read it yourself or do not understand it, seek the help of your GP or an independent
pathologist. You can ask the coroner if you can speak to the pathologist who conducted
the coroner’s post mortem, but the coroner is unlikely to allow this if the pathologist
could be a witness at the inquest or, in controversial cases, at later court hearings.
8 Includes parent, child, spouse, their legal representatives and representatives
of insurers, public agencies, police and potential defendants. From 1 June
2005, the interpretation of relative will include a partner in an ‘enduring family