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Sudden Death and the Coroner

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11. Are pathologists’ reports available

      after coroners’ post mortem and special   



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 12)


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





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