In a small number of cases where the cause of death is unclear, sudden or suspicious, the death will be reported to a coroner. Usually, the doctor, hospital or registrar will report the death to a coroner, but anyone who is concerned about the cause of death can do so.

This can be particularly traumatic in some cases, but most deaths that are reported to a coroner are from natural causes – only a very few need further investigation. For instance, any death which occurs where the deceased was not seen by a doctor within the previous 14 days would be reported to a coroner.

A death may be referred to a coroner if it:

  • Happens after an accident or injury.
  • Follows an industrial disease.
  • Takes place during a surgical operation or before recovery from an anaesthetic.
  • Occurs as a result of violence.
  • Is sudden or unexplained.

The coroner is responsible for discovering the cause of the death and may conduct a post-mortem of the deceased. Once the cause of death has been confirmed, he or she will issue a medical certificate. The registrar cannot register the death, and therefore the funeral cannot take place, until the coroner's decision is made.

Your local funeral director will be able to advise you further on what to do if a coroner needs to become involved.