Decision-making in a death investigation: Emotion, families and the coroner

Tait, Gordon and Carpenter, Belinda and Quadrelli, Carol ORCID: and Barnes, Michael (2016) Decision-making in a death investigation: Emotion, families and the coroner. Journal of Law and Medicine, 23 (3). pp. 571-581. ISSN 1320-159X

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The role of the coroner in common law countries such as Australia, England, Canada and New Zealand is to preside over death investigations where there is uncertainty as to the manner of death, a need to identify the deceased, a death of unknown cause, or a violent or unnatural death. The vast majority of these deaths are not suspicious and thus require coroners to engage with grieving families who have been thrust into a legal process through the misfortune of a loved one's sudden or unexpected death. In this research, 10 experienced coroners discussed how they negotiated the grief and trauma evident in a death investigation. In doing so, they articulated two distinct ways in which legal officers engaged with emotions, which are also evident in the literature. The first engages the script of judicial dispassion, articulating a hierarchical relationship between reason and emotion, while the second introduces an ethic of care via the principles of therapeutic jurisprudence, and thus offers a challenge to the role of emotion in the personae of the professional judicial officer. By using Hochschild's work on the sociology of emotions, this article discusses the various ways in which coroners manage the emotion of a death investigation through emotion work. While emotional distance may be an understandable response by coroners to the grief and trauma experienced by families and directed at cleaner coronial decision-making, the article concludes that coroners may be better served by offering emotions such as sympathy, consideration and compassion directly to the family in those situations where families are struggling to accept, or are resistant to, coroners' decisions.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: File reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher/author.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2022 01:50
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2022 03:08
Uncontrolled Keywords: Coronial practice, Emotions, Family, Judicial decision making
Fields of Research (2020): 48 LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES > 4805 Legal systems > 480504 Legal institutions (incl. courts and justice systems)
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 20 HEALTH > 2002 Evaluation of health and support services > 200299 Evaluation of health and support services not elsewhere classified
23 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 2304 Justice and the law > 230499 Justice and the law not elsewhere classified
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