Deaths Reported To The Coroner

When a death takes place which may not be due to natural causes, it must be reported to the Coroner. If the deceased had not seen a doctor 14 days before death, or had not been seen by a doctor at all before or after death, the Coroner must be informed.

What does the Coroner do when a death is reported?

The Coroner will consult with the deceased’s GP, who will advise whether they are satisfied with the cause of death. If the GP is satisfied, the coroner will then cease to be involved and will issue the certificate, enabling the family to register the death as normal. The doctor is not legally allowed to sign the death certificate if they have not seen the patient within this period, even if they are satisfied with the cause of death: the Coroner must be consulted.

If the doctor is uncertain as to the cause of death, it must be reported to the Coroner. Any death attributed to industrial disease, or where compensation has been claimed because of this, must be reported to the Coroner.

Other circumstances in which a death must be reported to the Coroner include those when death:

  • Was sudden or unexplained
  • Occurred in suspicious circumstances
  • Was caused directly or indirectly by any kind of accident
  • Was due to neglect, poisoning, or abuse of drugs
  • Suicide
  • Occurred while in prison or in police custody
  • Took place during a surgical operation or before recovery from the effects of anaesthesia.

Medical certificates issued by the attending doctor carry a list of the type of cases that the doctors should report to the Coroner. If the death comes within any of these categories, the usual practice is for the doctor to inform the Coroner directly, before anyone has gone to register the death.

Who Can Inform The Coroner?

Normally the doctor reports the death to the coroner or police. However, anyone who is uneasy about the apparent cause of death has the right to inform the Coroner for the district. You can get in touch by telephoning 01908 254327 and asking for the Coroner’s officer.

The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages may decide when they get the doctor’s medical certificate that, because of the cause or circumstances of the death, they need to report the death directly to the Coroner. In these cases, there will be a delay before the death can be registered, which may impede the funeral arrangements.

What Happens Next?

When a death is reported to the Coroner and they decide to investigate, the death cannot be registered until the Coroner provides a certificate when inquiries are complete. The Coroner will usually order a post mortem, which will generally show that the death was due to natural causes. The Coroner will then inform the family and the registrar through the Coroner’s officer, and the death can be registered in the normal way.

  • If the funeral is to be a burial, the Registrar will issue a certificate for burial, which must be presented in accordance with the cemetery regulations where the burial will take place.
  • If the funeral is a cremation, the coroner will issue a certificate for cremation. One part will be given to the family or sent direct to the registrar, while the other will be sent to the funeral director or direct to the crematorium.

The funeral must wait for the outcome of the Coroner’s investigation. The Coroner’s officer will sometimes be able to advise the family or funeral director so that they may start to make provisional funeral arrangements whilst the investigation is proceeding.

Further information

See the additional information on our HM Coroner's Office page. You can also refer to the  'Guide to coroner services'  intended for bereaved people and others who may be affected by a coroner investigation or are attending a coroner’s inquest.

Last Updated: 4 August 2020