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Medical negligence solicitors in the United Kingdom who are to make a claim for compensation on the behalf of the family of a patient who has died need to know the cause of death. The majority of deaths (especially when death occurs within a hospital or following a long period of illness) do not merit formal scrutiny because the deceased was under the constant care of a doctor leaving the cause of death reasonably obvious. In these cases the attending doctor authorises the death certificate without further attention however if the cause of death is sudden or unexpected the situation merits further investigation.

Cause of Death

In cases where it is unclear what caused the death or in cases involving an accident or an occupational disease then a coroner's inquest is required to determine the cause of death. The coroner must confirm the identity of the deceased, the time and date of death, the location of the death and - of course - the precise cause of death.

Post Mortem

In cases where a coroners inquest is deemed to be necessary to establish the cause of death, prior to that public hearing, the body of the deceased will undergo a post-mortem examination by a pathologist who will determine the cause of death. The relatives of the deceased or any other party are prevented by law from blocking either a post mortem or a coroner's hearing from being conducted.

Public Hearing

The coroner will oversee the inquest which is a public hearing conducted within a court of law. The coroner will have legal and/or medical expertise to qualify him to render judgement. In cases alleging medical negligence the family of the deceased may opt for representation by a firm of medical negligence solicitors or they may choose to represent themselves. The coroner's inquest ends after a verdict has been handed down in open court by a jury or by the coroner alone confirming the nature and cause of death.

Coroners Judgement

Relatives of the deceased may be affected in several ways by the judgement rendered in a coroner's inquest. People who could benefit from the estate of the deceased may be affected financially by the outcome. As an example, if the deceased was deemed to have committed suicide by the coroner, this may mean that the beneficiaries of a life insurance policy taken out by the deceased would not be paid to the beneficiaries. Though the deceased's family may opt to represent themselves during the inquest, in appropriate cases it may be more beneficial for them to be represented by experienced medical negligence solicitors - most especially when a relative wants to seek compensation due to the negligence of the person or organisation alleged to have caused the death.



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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here