Joseph Kelly is the Coroner for the District of Tipperary.
Who are Coroners and what do they do?
- The Coroner investigates circumstances of a sudden, unexplained, violent or unnatural death so that a death certificate can be issued. This may require a post mortem examination, sometimes followed by an inquest. The Coroner also plays a role in the certification of death with Hospitals and Nursing Homes.
- Coroners provide an important public service to the living and in particular to the next-of-kin and other people affected by the death. Coroners not only help provide closure for those bereaved suddenly but also perform a wider public service by identifying matters of public interest that can have life/death consequences.
- Coroners appreciate that the procedures involved in their inquiries, though necessary, may involve upset for the next-of-kin and friends. Coroners will carry out their work as sensitively as possible.
Why does the Coroner become involved?
- Sudden, unnatural, violent or unexplained deaths have to be reported to the Coroner. Doctors, funeral undertakers, the Registrar of Deaths, any householder and every person in charge of an institution or premises where the person who died was residing at the time of death have to inform the Coroner. Usually the death is reported to the Gardaí who will inform the Coroner. The full list of reported deaths is contained in the Second Schedule of the Coroners (Amendment) Act, 2019
- If you are not sure whether a death should be reported, you should contact your local Coroner or their staff and they will be able to advise you. If a death is reported to the Coroner, it does not mean that a post mortem will always be required.
What usually happens in the first 24 hours of the service?
- All sudden, unexplained or violent deaths are reported to the Coroner, usually by the Gardaí;
- The deceased may be taken to a hospital mortuary or a funeral home until the Coroner makes a decision if a post mortem is needed;
- You may be asked to formally identify the deceased;
- A Garda may contact you to get more information about the circumstances surrounding the death;
- Medical information may be required.
Stages in the Service provided by Coroners
The following is a summary of what the Coroner’s work includes:
Identifying the body of the deceased person can be distressing for next-of-kin or friends. If appropriate, arrangements can be made for someone else to do this for you.
- Post Mortem
If a death cannot be certified by a registered medical practitioner, e.g. the family doctor, a hospital doctor, etc, or the death appears to be due to unnatural causes, the Coroner may require a post mortem examination to be carried out. The family or next-of-kin will normally be asked for their permission before a post mortem is carried out. However where a Coroner has ordered a post mortem examination, the permission of the next of kin is not necessary.
A post mortem is a special medical examination of the body carried out by a specially trained doctor, a pathologist. Occasionally, organs may need to be retained for further examination. In such cases, the next-of-kin will be informed as soon as possible that this has happened and the organ will be returned for burial or cremation, by arrangement, once the examination has been concluded.
The report of the post mortem will be available to you on request, when the Coroner has completed their inquiries, for a fee set by law.
- Release for Burial
Coroners make every effort to release the body of the deceased for burial without any undue delay. Funeral arrangements should not be made until you have been told the date and time of the release of the body.
A Death Certificate can only be issued by the Registrar of Deaths when the Coroner has issued a Coroner’s Certificate. The Coroner may issue this after the post mortem report is received or after an inquest is held. While the Coroner is conducting their enquiries, on request they will issue you with an Interim Death Certificate which is acceptable to the Department of Social and Family Affairs for bereavement entitlements and other benefits claims, and for the purposes of administering an Estate.
Most deaths reported to Coroners do not require an inquest. An inquest is an inquiry held in public by a Coroner. If the Coroner considers the cause of death may be due to unnatural causes, they can hold an inquest, sometimes with a jury. Evidence is taken from witnesses who can assist in answering questions for the Coroner’s enquiry. Namely,
i. The identity of the deceased;
ii. Where, when and how the death occurred.
At the conclusion of the inquest, the Coroner will read out a formal verdict in which the answer to each of these questions is recorded. While the Coroner or jury may make a general recommendation designed to prevent similar deaths, they do not decide whose fault it was or whether there was a criminal offence.
- Please see the following links: www.justice.ie or www.coroners.ie