Increasing the information available to coroners: the effect on autopsy decision-making

Carpenter, Belinda and Tait, Gordon and Barnes, Michael and Adkins, Glenda and Naylor, Charles and Begum, Nelufa (2009) Increasing the information available to coroners: the effect on autopsy decision-making. Medicine Science and the Law, 49 (2). pp. 101-108. ISSN 0025-8024


This paper details research completed in 2007 which investigated autopsy decision-making in a death investigation. The data was gathered during the first year of operation in Queensland, Australia, of a new Coroners Act which changed the process of death investigation in three ways which are important to this paper. First, it required a greater amount of information to be gathered at the scene by police: this included a thorough investigation of the circumstances of the death, including statements from witnesses, friends and family, as well as evidence gathering at the scene. Second, it required coroners, for the first time, to determine the level of invasiveness required in the autopsy to complete the death investigation. Third, it enabled any genuine family concerns to be communicated to the coroner. The outcome of such information was threefold: (i) a greater amount of information offered to the coroner led to a decrease in the number of full internal autopsies ordered, but an increase in the number of partial internal autopsies ordered; (ii) this shift in autopsy decision-making by coroners saw certain factors given greater importance than others in decisions to order full internal, or external only, autopsies; (iii) a raised family concern had a significant impact on autopsy decision-making and tended to decrease the invasiveness of the autopsy ordered by the coroner.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to published version due to publisher copyright policy (Royal Society of Medicine Pess)
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Business - School of Management and Marketing
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2012 06:50
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2014 02:40
Uncontrolled Keywords: Queensland laws; autopsy; cause of death; coroner; decision making; human; legal aspect
Fields of Research : 06 Biological Sciences > 0699 Other Biological Sciences > 069901 Forensic Biology
11 Medical and Health Sciences > 1103 Clinical Sciences > 110316 Pathology (excl. Oral Pathology)
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2203 Philosophy > 220311 Philosophical Psychology (incl. Moral Psychology and Philosophy of Action)
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1258/rsmmsl.49.2.101

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