The importance of the inquest process cannot be underestimated. Where a loved one has died and the cause is unclear or there is reason to suspect something other than natural causes, getting answers is vital to helping those left behind to find closure and be able to properly grieve their loss.
What is a Coroner and what do they do?
A Coroner is an independent judicial office holder, appointed by a local authority within the Coroner area.
Coroners investigate deaths that have been reported to them if they have reason to think that the death was unnatural or violent, the cause of death is unknown, or the person died while in prison, police custody or other type of detention.
What is an inquest?
An inquest is the Coroner’s investigation and is the process by which the Coroner seeks to establish who has died, how, when and where.
An inquest is a public Court hearing held by the Coroner. The inquest might be held with a jury, depending on the circumstances of the death.
The inquest does not involve prosecution and defence. Rather, the purpose of it and the Coroner’s role is to discover the facts of the death.
Inquests where there may have been medical negligence resulting in death
Sometimes, a death can occur following medical treatment and the reason for the death is unclear.
In such circumstances, it is likely that the death will be reported to the Coroner. The Coroner will then decide whether an inquest is required.
As explained above, the Coroner’s role is to determine:
- Who died;
- When they died;
- Where they died; and
- How they came by their death.
It is this last element that is often the most difficult to establish in cases of medical treatment.
Importance of an inquest
The importance of inquests to bereaved family members is significant. The process can be difficult for families because it is often an unknown experience and people have little idea of where to start.
The Coroner’s role is not to apportion blame but to investigate the circumstances and causes of a death. When a death has occurred following medical treatment the Coroner will often call the doctors and nurses involved to Court as witnesses. The Coroner will ask questions of these witnesses and the family may do so if they wish. The Coroner will also consider any relevant policies and guidelines which may have been followed.
Sometimes an inquest may show that something could be done to prevent deaths occurring in similar circumstances. In this situation, the Coroner can draw this to the attention of people or organisations that may be able to take preventative steps in the future. In these circumstances, they are obliged to provide the Coroner with details of how they have addressed these issues and these details should also be made available to surviving family members.
Legal representation at inquest
Families may well wish to consider having their own legal representation at an inquest, to assist in navigating the complex and confusing process, but also to ensure that all pertinent questions are asked of the witnesses.
The chance to investigate the circumstances of a death following medical treatment is of great importance to the grieving families left behind.
The process of an inquest in any circumstances is daunting, but in situations where there are complex and detailed medical treatment aspects, it is key to ensure that you have explored the option of having legal representation for the enquiry.
If you have any questions in relation to inquests where there may have been medical negligence resulting in death, then please get in touch with Danielle or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.