Once the death has been reported to the Coroner, the Coroner's Officers will then make initial enquiries. This is to see what action needs to be taken. They will contact you to let you know what is going to happen and how long this may take. They will also contact the GP to get medical information or find out whether a doctor would be able to issue a medical certificate. You will be contacted within 24 hours of the first working day after the death.
No post mortem or inquest required
It is possible that following a discussion with the GP, they are able to provide a medical cause of death. If this happens the Coroner will usually not have to investigate further. This may be the case if the person was very elderly and/or had known medical conditions that provide an explanation for the death. The Coroner will allow the GP to issue a medical certificate and they will issue a form to the Registration Service. This document confirms that the Coroner has reviewed the circumstances and is happy for the death to be registered. The family will then get this document from the doctor and will be able to register the death in the usual way. This enquiry is usually dealt with in a day or two.
Inquest required but no post mortem is needed
There are occasions when an inquest will be required but the Coroner does not feel that a post mortem is necessary. This is because the cause of death is clear and undisputed.
This could be:
- where the deceased was previously diagnosed as having Mesothelioma (an industrial disease), during their life and by means of a biopsy
- due to tests, x rays and scans that were conducted in a hospital before the death
If this course of action is suitable, the Coroner's Officer will explain the process. An inquest will then be opened as detailed above. The Coroner will still need formal identification. As well as the registration details in these circumstances.
A post mortem will be required when a doctor is unable to provide a cause of death to the Coroner. It is an examination by a doctor called a pathologist to find out why someone has died. The Coroner's Officers will explain when an examination is needed and why there is a need to do so. They will also be able to tell you where and when this examination is taking place. You have the right to ask a doctor to represent you at the examination but you may have to pay a charge for this. Please discuss this with the Coroner's Officer as soon as possible if this is your wish.
Following a post mortem the Pathologist will provide a short report to the Coroner and there are three possible outcomes.
If the Coroner is satisfied that the cause of death given by the Pathologist is natural then there is unlikely to be a need for them to investigate further. At this stage the Coroner will issue a form 100B to the Registration Service and issue the documentation to allow the funeral to go ahead. The Coroner's Officer will contact you to explain the cause of death and provide advice on what steps to take to register the death. You will need to tell the Coroner's Officer what your funeral arrangements are so that the Coroner can formally release your loved one into their care. At this stage the Corner's involvement will come to an end and the funeral can take place. You will be able to request a copy of the final report from the Coroner's Office once it becomes available.
Sometimes the Pathologist will need to examine organs, tissues, body fluids (for example blood) in more detail to provide a cause of death.
Unfortunately this will, on occasion mean that an organ will need to be kept for specialist examination. For example due to a sudden cardiac (heart) event.
The Coroner's Officer will contact you if organs, small tissue samples or fluids are retained. They will explain what this means and what will happen. The next of kin will be asked to consider and provide written consent as to how the samples should be disposed of once the testing has been concluded and the Coroner’s Investigation or Inquest comes to an end. More detailed advice and information will be given to you if this applies.
To allow for your loved one to be released to the funeral director and for the funeral to go ahead, the Coroner will open an Investigation or an Inquest. To open an investigation, the Coroner must have formal identification. If one has not already been carried out, your Coroner's Officer will contact you to make arrangements. You will not be compelled to identify your loved one if you do not want to and alternative arrangements will be made. Please discuss this with the officer.
Your loved one can usually be released once we have received:
- your signed wishes in relation to the disposal of the samples taken
- formal identification
- details of your funeral director
There are some circumstances which could mean a delay in the release for the funeral. This will usually be due to a police investigation or a wish for organs and/or samples to be returned to the body before release. Your Coroner's Officer will explain any delay and the reasons if this is applicable.
If an investigation has been opened the Coroner will issue a Certificate of the Fact of Death. This is sometimes called an Interim Certificate. It is therefore important that you provide the Coroner's Officer with the details required, when requested. This then allows for the issue of this paperwork. They will check the personal details with you to ensure that they are accurate. This will then allow for the next of kin to deal with the affairs of the deceased such as bank accounts and benefits. You will be issued with four copies of this document. You will not be required to register the death at this point.
You will have an assigned Coroner's Officer. The officer will be your continued point of contact whilst the investigation continues. They will update you once results are known. This can take many weeks but should not ordinarily delay your funeral.
If following examination of the samples, a natural death is established, it is unlikely that the Coroner would need to have an inquest. They may at that point, stop the investigation. If this is going to happen the Coroner's Officer will:
- contact you
- explain the cause of death
- note any concerns
- provide advice about how to register the death
An unnatural death for example would be a:
- death from a traffic collision
- trauma (fall)
- possibly industrial disease (asbestosis)
If the Coroner feels that a cause of death given by the Pathologist is unnatural, they will open and adjourn an Inquest.
To open open an Inquest the Coroner will need:
- formal identification
- signed consent for any samples taken
- registration details
Once an Inquest has been opened and adjourned, it is usual that your loved one would be released to your funeral director. There are some circumstances which could mean a delay in the release for funeral. This will usually be due to a police investigation or a wish for organs and/or samples to be returned to the body before release. Your Coroner's Officer will explain any delay and the reasons if this is applicable.
If an inquest has been opened the Coroner will issue a Fact of Death Certificate sometimes called an Interim Certificate. It is important that you provide the Coroner's Officer with the registration details when requested. They will check these to ensure that they are accurate. This will allow for the next of kin to deal with the affairs of the deceased such as bank accounts and benefits. You will be issued with four copies of this document. You will not be required to register the death at this point.
You will have an assigned Coroner's Officer who will be your continued point of contact while the investigation continues. They will update you once results are known. They will also provide updates as the case is prepared for an inquest hearing.