The Coroner, Autopsies or Port Mortems and Inquests
A coroner is an independent government official who confirms and certifies the death of an individual within a jurisdiction. A coroner may also conduct or order an inquest into the manner or cause of death, and investigate or confirm the identity of an unknown person who has been found dead within their jurisdiction.
In the case of certain deaths the Coroner will order a post mortem (also called an autopsy) which is carried out to gain more information about the death. Normally the attending doctor will confirm the consent of the next of kin, however if a coroner orders the post mortem, consent is not necessary.
Post mortems are carried out with respect and dignity of the deceased and occasionally may delay the funeral. The results will play an important part in understanding the death, but can take from eight to twelve weeks to prepare, as samples are sent to the State Laboratory and this takes time. The family can discuss the results of the post mortem with the deceased’s doctor or hospital consultant. When the attending doctor receives the post mortem results they will sign the Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death and the death certificate can then by obtained in the usual way.
The deaths that must be notified to the Coroner are:
- Sudden or unexpected deaths,
- where there is uncertainty regarding the cause of death where the deceased’s own doctor or a hospital doctor is not able to issue a Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death,
- Accidental or violent deaths (for example Road Traffic Accident),
- Deaths which occur within 24 hours of hospital admission,
- Death which occur within 24 hours of any medical, surgical, radiological, anesthetic, obstetric or other procedure.
Normally there needs to be a formal identification of the deceased by the next of kin in the presence of a Garda.
The Coroner will issue a Coroner’s Certificate of Fact of Death (Interim Death) directly to the family after the post mortem to enable them to proceed with essential paperwork.
Certain deaths are subject to an inquest. This enquiry cannot take place until six weeks after the death, is directed by the Coroner and there may be a jury present. It can prove upsetting and difficult for the family and its function is to establish the circumstances and cause of the death by taking sworn evidence from witnesses. It may help with the grieving process by answering questions about the death but will undoubtedly be painful to observe. The coroner will issue a Death Certificate once the inquest has concluded.
CORONERS IN KERRY
There are two coroners in County Kerry:
Ms. Helen Lucey
Phone: 068 21228
Fax: 068 21122