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General practioners and necropsies General practioners are welcome at necropsies

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: (Published 25 June 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:1711
  1. F Patel

    EDITOR, - Recent articles on necropsies written by the non-forensic community are muddled and consistently omit to mention crucial differences between the coroner's necropsy (under the Coroners Act 1988 and the Coroners Rules 1984) and the hospital necropsy (under the Human Tissue Act 1961, as amended by the Anatomy Act 1984).*RF 1-3* The relevant cofactors that merit consideration by those indulging in medical jurisprudence are stated elsewhere.4,5

    The comment that a deterrent to general practitioners requesting necropsies is their belief that a necropsy is needed only if the cause of death is not known1 is wrong. When the cause of death is unknown the case is referred to the coroner and a request from the general practitioner for a necropsy is redundant.

    Although the coroner's investigation of a death primarily serves statutory requirements and medicolegal interest, modern forensic pathologists endeavour to find a medical reason for the death for the benefit of clinical colleagues and the bereaved family. All too commonly, and to the detriment of clinicopathological answers that may be gleaned from a necropsy, no clinical history is available.

    The general practitioner is welcome at the necropsy (under rule 7 of the Coroners Rules 1984) and entitled to be notified when practicable of the time and place. It is constructive and of mutual benefit for doctors to liaise with the coroner's pathologist before the necropsy. More communication and greater rapport should be encouraged.

    The financial burden of a medicolegal necropsy falls on the coroner or the police authority and is relieved by public funds. A prescribed fee (if any) for the necropsy report (under rule 57 of the Coroners Rules 1984) is a reasonable token payment. It may selectively control properly interested applicants. The report and other evidence before the coroner may be inspected without charge.

    A …

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