Frequently asked questions answered by the Coronor for the Inner South District of Greater London
- Under what circumstances is a death reported to a Coroner?
If you are aware that someone has died unexpectedly you should contact the deceased's GP or the Police. The deceased’s GP will either arrange for a Medical Cause of Death Certificate to be issued, or will ensure all the details are referred to the C
oroner’s Office. The police will refer the circumstances to the Coroner’s office.
Normally Registrars of births and deaths, doctors (GPs or hospital doctors), the police and others report deaths to coroners in certain circumstances. Deaths that must be reported are deaths that are violent 'unnatural' or of unknown cause. These are broad categories. The following list contains examples of the types of death that will be reported but the list is not complete or exhaustive:
- when no doctor attended the deceased during his or her last illness;
- although a doctor attended during the last illness the deceased was not seen either within 14 days before death nor after death;
- the cause of death appears to be unknown;
- the death occurred during an operation or before recovery from the effects of an anaesthetic;
- the death was due to an industrial accident, disease or poisoning;
- the death was sudden or unexpected;
- the death was unnatural;
- the death was due to violence or neglect;
- the death was in other suspicious circumstances; or
- the death occurred in custody or otherwise in state detention.
It should be noted that not all deaths need to be reported. In many cases the deceased person's own doctor, or a hospital doctor who has been treating him or her during the final illness, is able to issue a Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death (MCCD) without reference to a coroner. The death can then be registered by the Registrar of births and deaths, who will issue the death certificate. Sometimes doctors may discuss the case with the Coroner and this may result in the Coroner deciding that he or she does not need to make further inquiries, because the death is from natural causes. In the light of that discussion the doctor concerned may be able to issue the MCCD and the Coroner will issue a certificate (Peach Form A) to the Registrar stating that it is not necessary to hold an inquest. However, if the Coroner decides to investigate a death the registrar of births and deaths must wait for the Coroner to finish his or her inquiries before the death can be registered. These inquiries may take time, so it is always best to contact the Coroner's office before any funeral arrangements are made. In many cases the decision to investigate will not hold up funeral arrangements.
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- What happens when the deceased comes into the country from abroad?
When a deceased comes into the country, the undertakers will ask the Coroner for the funeral forms that the Coroner will normally issue to them when someone dies in this country. When this happens, that person coming into the country is dealt with in
exactly the same way that a Coroner will deal with a person who dies in the country. If the accompanying documentation coming in from abroad gives a clear natural cause of death then the Coroner will have no problem in issuing the forms which the undertaker requires. It should be noted that if the Coroner cannot accept the cause of death written out on the paperwork accompanying the deceased person coming into the country then the Coroner has a duty to investigate the death (see below). Subject to the Post Mortem examination, there should not be any great delay in releasing the body for the funeral.
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- What happens when the deceased is being repatriated to his / her home country?
On occasions a request is made to a Coroner for what is known as an Out of England order (OOE) so that the family of a deceased person can transport the body to his / her homeland. When this happens the Coroner is under the same obligations as though
the person was having a funeral in this country. The request is submitted to the Coroner together with a copy of the Medical Cause of Death Certificate or if the body is in one of our mortuaries and we are able to release the body, the undertakers will verbally request for an OOE to be processed. This does not take a great amount of time to do and will normally be carried out within 24 hours. However if the Coroner is unable to accept the cause of death on the Medical Cause of Death Certificate then he / she will have to order a Post Mortem examination and this could delay the issuing of the OOE. We do ask everyone for their patience in connection with these orders and the issuing of them. We do advise undertakers not to book any passage (air / sea) until the order is ready to be collected. When dealing with these applications we need to be informed of religious beliefs or other particular reasons of urgency. Until the Coroner is satisfied with the cause of death or until an investigation is authorized the OOE will not be issued.
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- Workings of the initial stages when a death is reported to the Coroner
When a death is reported to the Coroner this is done through a Coroner’s officer. These officers are employed by the Metropolitan police but are staff not officers. They work under the direction of the Coroner and liaise with bereaved people, as well
as with the police, doctors, witnesses, mortuary staff, hospital bereavement staff and funeral directors. It is the Coroner’s officers job to obtain the necessary information so that the Coroner can come to a proper decision on how a person has died. The Coroner’s Officer will also arrange any Post Mortem examination which the Coroner directs will have to take place. The Coroner’s officer having care of the case will organise the identification of the deceased and any viewings the maybe requested by relatives and friends. You, or a representative of your choice, may be asked to formally identify the body. You are also entitled to view the deceased should you wish to do so. If you wish to have body contact with your loved one, please let the officer know. Just occasionally viewing has to be through a glass window. If, the body has been damaged, for example through involvement in a traffic collision, this will be explained to you with sensitivity and you will be given a choice as to whether you want to see the deceased or have some other form of identification used if possible.
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