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Sudden Death and the Coroner

Booklet content © Victims Voice 2002                             Web design © Tim Finucane 2009

2. When are deaths reported to coroners?


Adult and child deaths are usually reported to the coroner by the police or a doctor unable to provide a Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death. Sometimes the immediate medical cause of death is known, but misunderstandings can arise because the doctor informs the coroner, if the death happened in particular circumstances:


- the death occurred during or following an operation, anaesthetic or
 other medical procedure (or within 24 hours of admission
 to hospital)


- the certifying doctor did not treat the patient in the 14 days before


- the death occurred after an accident, however long the interval
  between injury and death;


- there is uncertainty about whether or not a baby was stillborn;


- the death could have been due to neglect or abortion;


- there is uncertainty about circumstances leading to the death.


If a doctor does issue a Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death and the particulars given on it, or those provided by relatives, suggest any of the above circumstances, the Registrar of Births and Deaths has a duty to report such deaths and will not register the death without further enquiry by the coroner. This is distressing and can delay funeral arrangements, but it does not necessarily mean that a post mortem or inquest will be needed, or imply clinical  negligence or any other untoward event. These provisions do protect the public and especially children, so the involvement of the coroner at an early stage should be helpful for all concerned, rather than otherwise.





1     Reporting deaths within 24 hours of admission is not a legal requirement, but
     some doctors do report these deaths or consult the coroner to clarify whether
     or not a death should be reported.


2     Any diagnosis, treatments or procedures associated with patient care.

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