Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations On the Contrary

Good and bad coroner stories

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 24 February 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c1064

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Tony Delamothe, deputy editor, BMJ
  1. tdelamothe{at}

    It would be better for the living and the dead if the conduct of inquests was free of any sort of criticism

    Given that coroners have been around in England in one form or another since at least 1194, it’s surprising that they’ve been attracting such attention of late. The Cambridgeshire coroner may have received the thumbs up for his verdict of unlawful killing in the case involving the locum general practitioner Daniel Ubani (BMJ 2010;340:c771, doi:10.1136/bmj.c771), but over the past year bad coroner stories seem to have outnumbered the good ones.

    Let’s start with the Coroners and Justice Bill, which made its protracted way on to the statute books last November. Readers may remember that this time last year a clause to remove any barriers to data sharing by the government was dropped from this bill, after a campaign by the BMA and others (BMJ 2009;338:b895, doi:10.1136/bmj.b895). However, the act enshrines an equally disquieting concept: secret inquests. In the words of the Guardian “the lord chancellor and justice secretary, Jack Straw, extinguished the ancient right of every citizen to a coroner’s inquest …

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