[Note that until 1876, deaths in England and Wales were not required to be certified by a medical practitioner. Many were, but often the cause of death entered in the register was the opinion of the person (the informant)
reporting the death to the Registrar!]
In most cases, the deceased's own doctor or a hospital doctor who has been treating the deceased is able to provide the Registrar with an acceptable Certificate of Medical Cause of Death. Any sudden or unexplained death must
be reported to the Coroner.
The Coroner must be notified in any of the following circumstances:
- when no doctor has treated the deceased during his/her last illness
- when the doctor attending the patient during his/her last illness did not see the deceased after death or within 14 days prior to the death
- when the death occurred during an operation or before recovery from anaesthetic
- when the death was sudden and unexplained, or under suspicious circumstances
- when the death might be due to an idustrial injury or disease, or to accident, violence, neglect, abortion, or to any kind of poisoning
- when the death occurred in prison or in police custody
The Coroner will make one of the following decisions:
- If it is obvious that the death was from natural causes, the Coroner may authorise the Registrar to accept a death registration without any need for a Corner's Post Mortem.
- In all other cases, the Coroner will arrange a post mortem to be undertaken (usually within a couple of days of the death) to establish the
cause of death. If the post mortem reveals that death was definitely due to natural causes, the Coroner will issue notification to the Registrar
authorising him to accept a registration from an informant in the usual way.
In these cases, the 'Cause of death' section of the death certificate will show the cause followed by something like 'Certified by John Brown Coroner for Western District of Greater London after post mortem without inquest'.
- If the post mortem reveals that the death may not be due to natural causes, the Coroner is obliged by law to hold an inquest. Death registration will not take place until after the inquest, which may be within a few weeks, but could be many months after the death. Death certificates issued after an inquest will show in the space for the informant something like
'Certificate received from John Brown Coroner for Western district of Greater London. Inquest held 1st May 1954'. Also, after the Cause of death the inquest's verdict will be shown - for example, Accidental Death, Natural Causes, Murdered, Took His Own Life, etc.
Source: submitted by Tony Mitchell
Page updated March 12, 2008 by Rossbret