Post-mortem examinations

Why have a post-mortem?

A post-mortem is an examination of the body of a person who has died. It is sometimes referred to as an autopsy.

If the deceased’s own GP or the hospital doctor cannot give a medical cause of death then an examination must take place to determine the cause.

Can I object to a post-mortem?

Although the Coroner will be mindful of any views held by members of the family it is for the Coroner alone to decide whether a post-mortem must take place. The Coroner has a legal duty to ascertain the cause of death, and if a doctor cannot satisfy the Coroner of this then a post-mortem examination must take place.

Who organises and pays for the transport of the deceased to and from the post-mortem?

The Coroner’s office will organise the removal of the deceased to and from the hospital and will pay for this service.

You are not obliged to retain the services of the funeral director appointed by the Coroner to transport the body of the deceased to and from the hospital and you may appoint a funeral director of your choice to organise the funeral.

Do I have to accept the result of a post-mortem?

No. You can ask the Coroner for a second post-mortem but this will be at your cost and you will need to make all the arrangements yourself.

Will a post-mortem delay the funeral?

Not usually. The Coroner and pathologist understand the desire on the part of the family to deal with matters expeditiously, particularly in cases where the religious or cultural beliefs of the family require a funeral to be held within a particular time period.

However there are some cases where a slight delay occurs. In such cases an explanation will be given to the family together with an estimate of how long the delay will be.

Can I have a copy of the post-mortem report?

The Coroner will usually supply a copy of the report to ‘Interested Persons’, immediate family, legal representatives and so on, on application in writing.

Should you read this report, please be aware that it has been prepared for the Coroner by the pathologist carrying out the examination.

It contains detailed and sensitive information about the post-mortem examination that may be confusing or upsetting for you. We highly recommend that you seek advice from a medical professional, such as your GP or hospital consultant, to help you fully understand it.

The Coroner’s Officer can only provide a limited explanation.

East Sussex Coroner

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