Autopsy decision making in a death investigation

When a death is reported to the Coroner, the police are charged with investigating the death on the Coroners’ behalf. This involves gathering information about the deceased from family, (including friends and witnesses), particularly with regard to the autopsy procedure and whether the family have any religious, cultural or family concerns to raise about the invasiveness of the procedure.

This information is given to the coroner by police, who provide advice about the circumstances and cause of death. The coroner also receives professional advice from pathologists and counsellors who liaise with families and clarify their views and any objections to autopsy. Based on this information and advice, the coroner issues an autopsy order. This order will be given to the pathologists who will carry out the autopsy. Counsellors may become involved if there is a mismatch between what the family want and what the coroner and/or pathologist deems necessary to complete the investigation.

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    This video, which runs for 5 mins, takes you through the basic process of a coronial death investigation, including what each professional does in a coronial investigation and their role in the autopsy decision making process, and contextualises your role within the coronial system.

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    This video, which runs for 10 mins, outlines the role of the autopsy in a death investigation. It addresses a range of questions frequently raised by family members about the death investigation including: What medical procedures might occur on the body of my loved one?; who communicates to the family about the autopsy procedure?; and what is an autopsy and why is it being performed on my loved one?