Post Mortem Examination

There are times when relatives will request a post-mortem examination or the Trust’s medical staff will seek permission for a post-mortem examination to be undertaken by one of our pathologists. This may be desirable in order to improve their understanding of the disease that the patient had suffered from and of the treatment given, and to contribute to better care in the future. For some patients it may help to confirm the actual cause of death.  Sometimes the pathologists make unexpected findings, leading to a change of diagnosis.  Post-mortem examinations are also of great benefit in the training of our medical students and junior medical staff.

All post-mortem examinations are carried out with great care, and the pathologists and mortuary staff respect the dignity of the patient they are examining.  The body is not disfigured and may be viewed afterwards.

The request for post-mortem examination will be fully explained either by one of the doctors or by the Pathology Liaison Nurse, and families are free to decide whether they wish to give their consent.  The consent form is designed to be flexible, and the examination can be restricted, if you wish.

However, it should be pointed out that the more complete the examination, the greater the benefit that will come from it. The hospital will issue the medical certificate of the cause of death prior to a post-mortem examination. A post-mortem examination should not delay the funeral arrangements.

Deaths Referred to HM Coroner

By law, if the doctor is not able to issue a death certificate (for example, if someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly in hospital or following an accident or other unnatural event) the doctor must tell the Coroner. The Coroner is a qualified lawyer or doctor.  He/she investigates certain medical conditions and diseases, and unnatural or sudden deaths.

The Coroner is represented by the Coroner’s Officers, who may need to talk to you about the circumstances leading up to your relative’s death.  They will also be able to keep you informed of progress and explain the nature of an inquest, if one is necessary. In most cases inquests are not necessary.  Their telephone number is (01603) 276493, (answer phone if they are unavailable).

If the death is to be investigated by the Coroner, a post-mortem examination will normally be necessary to find out the exact cause of death. The Coroner does not require the consent of relatives or carers for this examination.

The Coroner will issue the death certificate and allow the deceased to be released for the funeral after his investigations have been completed.  You should still make early contact with your funeral director.  If there is to be an inquest, the Coroner can normally issue a burial or cremation certificate after the post-mortem examination is completed.  Before this occurs, a formal identification of the body will need to take place.  This will normally occur in the hospital mortuary, where there is a special suite for families to view the bodies of their relatives.  You will be accompanied to such a viewing and the procedure will be explained to you.

Opening Times

Monday 09:00 – 16:30
Tuesday 09:00 – 16:30
Wednesday 09:00 – 16:30
Thursday 09:00 – 16:30
Friday 09:00 – 16:30
Saturday Closed
Sunday Closed

Contact Details

Telephone: 01603 276493