Reforming the coroner's service

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7408.175 (Published 24 July 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:175
  1. Christopher M Milroy, professor of forensic pathology (c.m.milroy@sheffield.ac.uk),
  2. Helen L Whitwell, professor of forensic pathology
  1. Medico-Legal Centre, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S3 7ES

    Major necessary reforms would mean an integrated service and more medical input

    A review of the coroner's service in England and Wales and Northern Ireland was published in June 2003.1 This was followed on 14 July by the Shipman inquiry report of Dame Janet Smith, which dealt with the role of coroners.2 Dame Janet Smith also commented on the review. The coroner is central to death investigation in the English legal system, and implementation of these proposals will result in major changes. The current system is fragmented, legalistic, and inadequately funded. The coroner was exported to many Commonwealth countries. In the United States and Canada, many states and provinces have abolished the coroner's system, replacing it with a medical examiner's system. Other systems have been modernised, notably in Ontario, Canada, and Victoria, Australia.

    Both the review and the judicial inquiry recommend a full time service. The review recommends that all coroners should be legally qualified (some are currently medically qualified) with a reduction to 60 full time jurisdictions. Overall responsibility …

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