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