Experts welcome major reforms to the coroner's service

Proper death investigation protects the public and cannot be neglected any longer, write two senior forensic doctors in this week's BMJ.

Christopher Milroy and Helen Whitwell, Professors of Forensic Pathology at the University of Sheffield argue that the current system is fragmented, legalistic, and inadequately funded. They welcome the recent review of the coroner's service, and the Shipman inquiry report, which they say "will result in major changes."

The review proposes that all coroners should be legally qualified and overall responsibility for the coroner's system will be vested in a national "coronial council." The Shipman inquiry advocates properly trained coroner's investigators, headed by a chief investigator, to replace the current system of coroner's officers.

Both the review and the inquiry propose greater medical input into the coroner's system and both recommend replacing the current system of death certification and cremation certificates with one unified process.

The inquiry also supports the close association of forensic medicine and the coroner's service, a situation that has existed in Sheffield for three decades but which has not been replicated elsewhere in the United Kingdom, say the authors.

These proposals would mean greater integration of the services required in death investigation, with medical issues left to those with appropriate medical training, add the authors. The new system will require funding, but the status quo is not acceptable, they conclude.


Contact: Emma Dickinson
BMJ-British Medical Journal

Page: 1

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