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Post-mortems and inquests

Where a death has been reported to the coroner they may decide further investigation is needed and this may involve a post-mortem and an inquest.


A post-mortem is a medical examination of the body to try to find the cause of death.

You do not have the right to object to a post-mortem but you should tell the coroner if you have religious or other strong objections.

If the coroner has been notified as the deceased had not seen their doctor in the 14 days prior to death the coroner will speak to the doctor and in most cases a post-mortem will not be ordered.

Once a post-mortem has taken place the coroner can make decisions about what happens next and give approval for cremation.


An inquest is a legal inquiry into the medical cause and circumstances of death.

It is held in public and a jury is sometimes called. It happens when:

  • the death was violent or unnatural
  • the death took place in prison or police custody
  • the cause of death is still uncertain after post-mortem examination

Being on a jury at an inquest

Everyone between the ages of 18 and 70 on the UK Electoral Register can be called for jury service and if you are summoned it is an offence not to attend.

There are a few exceptions and these are explained on the jury summons.

You may be summoned to be part of a jury at the coroner's court. These jury's are not there to find someone guilty or innocent but to reach conclusions about:

  • who the person was
  • how, when and where they died
  • the information needed to register the death

The Ministry of Justice has a guide to being a juror at an inquest and you should also be given a guide, along with your summons, by the coroner's court you are called to.