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FAQs about sudden death procedures and inquests

What is an inquest?

An inquest is usually opened primarily to record that a death has occurred and to identify the deceased. It will then be adjourned until any police enquires and the coroner’s investigations are completed. Once all the information has been collected, a full inquest hearing will be held. Note: in some circumstances the inquest will not merely be opened and adjourned but will proceed to its conclusion at one hearing. The inquest is a factual inquiry to determine:

  • Who has died
  • When and where the death occurred
  • How that person came by their death

An inquest is not a trial, and the coroner does not apportion blame.

When will a death certificate be issued?

If the death was due to natural causes the registrar will issue a death certificate. If there is to be an inquest the coroner may issue an interim certificate, which is a statement of fact as to the death (this will assist in the administration of the deceased’s estate). When the inquest is completed, the coroner will notify the registrar as to his findings and a death certificate can then be obtained.

When can the funeral be held?

If the post mortem determined the cause of death to be natural, the coroner will release the body and issue a form to the registrar's office, notifying them that the death can be registered. The registrar will issue a burial order. However, if there is to be a cremation, the coroner will issue a cremation certificate.

If there is to be an inquest, the coroner will issue either the burial order or a cremation certificate. If charges have been brought against somebody for causing the death, it may be necessary to have a second post mortem or further investigations, and the release of the body and the funeral arrangements may be delayed.

When can bodies be taken out of the Isle of Man?

The coroner must be given written notice of any body being taken out of the Isle of Man. The coroner will issue an Out of Isle of Man Order when he is satisfied as to the result of enquiries ordered by him.

When can bodies be brought into the Isle of Man jurisdiction from abroad?

If a body is repatriated to this country, it is generally accepted that the coroner within whose jurisdiction the body will finally lay, must be notified. The coroner will then investigate as to whether an inquest is necessary.

Will the Coroner access the dead person's medical records?

Medical records remain confidential after death. Coroners are entitled to request medical information that is relevant and necessary to their inquiries.

What is a post mortem report?

This report gives details of the examination of the body. It may also give details of any laboratory tests carried out.

If the cause of death remains unknown or it is determined to be as the result of a violent or unnatural cause, then a formal inquest will be opened.

The coroner will thoroughly investigate the death, obtaining statements from all parties with any useful information. Frequently the police will also assist in the investigation, particularly if there are suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.

What is a post mortem examination?

A post mortem examination is a medical examination of a body carried out by a pathologist appointed by the coroner. The coroner will give notice of the need for an examination to interested parties unless this is not practicable or would unduly delay the examination. The consent of the next of kin is not required for a coroner’s post mortem; however the next of kin are entitled to be represented at the examination by a doctor of their choice.

Which deaths need to be referred to the Coroner?

Where the cause of death is unknown or cannot be ascertained, and all deaths of an unnatural or violent nature, or other suspicious circumstances will be referred to the coroner. The coroner will seek to establish the medical cause of death by post mortem examination.

Are all deaths reported to the Coroner?

No, in most cases, a general practictioner or hospital doctor can certify the medical cause of death and issue the Medical Cause of Death Certificate. The death can then be registered with the Registrar of Births and Deaths. The registrar may refer deaths to the coroner if the cause shown is unacceptable or requires further inquiries.

What is a natural death?

If a person dies of an expected illness and a registered medical practitioner has seen them during their last illness and within 28 days of the death, that doctor can issue a Medical Cause of Death certificate. Under these circumstances there is no involvement of the Coroner’s Office.

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