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A post-mortem is the examination of a body after death; the aim is to determine the cause of death. They are carried out by pathologists (doctors who specialise in understanding the nature and causes of disease).

Sometimes further procedures are needed to determine the cause of death and the pathologist may need to take small samples of tissue for examination under a microscope or send fluid samples for toxicology testing.

Most post-mortems are carried out at the hospital mortuaries in Derby and Chesterfield. The pathologist will produce a final report which will be shared with the family if they wish to receive a copy.

The final decision on whether a post-mortem is performed rests with the coroner but you should tell the coroner if you have religious or other strong objections.

Once a post-mortem has taken place the coroner can make decisions about what happens next and the deceased is usually released for funeral at that stage.

If, following investigation, the coroner continues to suspect that the person’s death was in some way unnatural or remains unexplained then an inquest will be held. There are some situations when a coroner must hold an inquest, (most commonly if the person was detained by the state in some way, such as a patient detained for mental health treatment), and there are some situations where the inquest must be held with a jury.