Intended for healthcare professionals


The coroner service

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: (Published 05 June 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1502

A relic in need of reform

  1. Derrick Pounder, Professor of forensic medicine
  1. Department of Forensic Medicine, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN

    A Home Office research study on the coroner service in England and Wales1 puts the spotlight on some important public policy issues, most of which need to be reviewed in light of the forthcoming Human Rights Act. Every coroner's investigation is an enforceable intrusion by the state into what would otherwise be a private family matter—the death of a loved one. Striking the correct balance between the reasonable needs of the state to investigate and the rights of the next of kin to privacy and religious ritual is not easy, and present evidence suggests that it is not done well in England and Wales.

    A new factor in the equation will be the Human Rights Act, which gives domestic effect to those rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. This will need to come into effect in Scotland before the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and is expected to come into effect in England and Wales after the …

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