What can you expect from the Coroner Service?
What usually happens in the first 24 hours?
- All sudden, unexplained or violent deaths are reported (usually by the Gardaí) to the Coroner;
- The deceased may be taken to a hospital mortuary or a funeral home until the Coroner makes a decision if a post mortem is needed;
- You may be asked to formally identify the deceased;
- A Garda may contact you to get more information about the circumstances surrounding the death;
- Medical information may be required
Stages in the Coroner Service
The following is a summary of what the Coroners’ work includes:-
Identifying the body of the deceased person can be distressing for next-of-kin or friends. Arrangements can be made for someone else to do this for you, if appropriate.
If a death cannot be certified by a registered medical practitioner, e.g., family doctor, hospital doctor etc., or the death appears to be due to unnatural causes, the Coroner may require a post mortem examination to be carried out. Where a Coroner has ordered a post mortem examination, the permission of the next-of-kin is not necessary. A post mortem is a special medical examination of the body carried out by a specially trained doctor, a pathologist. Occasionally, organs may need to be retained for further examination. In such cases, the next-of-kin will be notified immediately that this has happened and the organ will be returned for burial or cremation, by arrangement, once the examination has been concluded. In carrying out this examination, there is no disfigurement of the body (or further disfigurement of the body), which may be viewed afterwards, in the same manner, as if no post mortem had been performed. The report of the post mortem will be available to you on request for a fee set by law when the Coroner has completed their inquiries.
Release for burial
Coroners make every effort to release the body of the deceased for burial without any undue delay. Funeral arrangements should not be made until you have been told the date and time of the release of the body.
A death certificate can only be issued by the Registrar of Deaths when the Coroner has issued a Coroner’s Certificate. The Coroner may issue this after the post mortem report is received or after an inquest is held. While the Coroner is conducting their enquiries, on request, they will issue you with an Interim Death Certificate, which is acceptable to the Department of Social and Family Affairs for bereavement grants and other benefits.
Most deaths reported to Coroners do not require an inquest. Through their inquiries, a Coroner will decide whether a death is due to natural or unnatural causes. If a death may be due to unnatural causes, an inquest must be held by law. An inquest is an inquiry held in public by a Coroner, sometimes with a jury. Evidence is taken from witnesses who can assist in answering questions for the Coroner’s enquiry, namely:-
- The identity of the deceased;
- Where, when and how death occurred.
At the conclusion of the inquest, the Coroner will read out a formal verdict in which the answer to each of these questions is recorded. While the Coroner or jury may make a general recommendation designed to prevent similar deaths, they do not decide whose fault it was or whether there was a criminal offence.