Questions about Covid-19 related deaths during the Pandemic Emergency
1. Why is the Coroner notified when death is due to Covid-19 infection?
Under the law in Ireland any Covid-19 related death must be reported by or on behalf of the treating doctor to the Coroner, usually on the date of death or as soon as practicable. The Coroner makes inquiry into the death.
Covid-19 is classified as a natural cause death in accordance with national and international death classification. The Coroner, once satisfied that the death is due to natural causes and no other circumstances require further investigation, then completes the inquiry and also notifies each Covid-19 death to the public health authorities daily. This contributes to Covid-19 related death statistics that are announced by the Department of Health and form part of the official record.
2. Will there be a Coroner’s post mortem examination when death is due to Covid-19 infection?
Covid-19 is a natural cause of death due to infection. In any death reported to the Coroner where the cause of death is due to Covid-19 infection, and no other circumstances arise, there is no requirement for a Coroner’s post mortem and the treating doctor of the deceased will issue the Death Notification Certificate which allows the family to register the death with the Civil Registration Service.
In cases where other circumstances arise in relation to the death of a person who is known to have a co-incidental diagnosis of Covid-19 the law requires a post mortem to be directed by the Coroner. Examples of such circumstances are: accidental death, apparent self- inflicted death, death in the workplace or suspicious death.
3. Will there be an inquest where death is due to Covid-19 infection?
As Covid-19 is classified as a natural cause of death an inquest is not required to be held.
In a small number of cases where particular or exceptional circumstances arise an inquest may be held at the discretion of the Coroner. Each of any such deaths is considered by the Coroner on a case by case basis.
Updated Guidance Note from Coroners Service and Coroners Society of Ireland in relation to Covid-19 related deaths
The coroner service is a network of Coroners located throughout the country.
The Coroners' core function is to investigate sudden and unexplained deaths so that a death certificate can be issued. This is an important public service to the living and in particular to the next-of-kin and friends of the deceased.
The coroner service not only provides closure for those bereaved suddenly but also performs a wider public service by identifying matters of public interest that can have life/death consequences.