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Consented Hospital Post-Mortem Examinations

The doctor who certified death may ask for permission from the next-of-kin to carry out a post-mortem examination. A post-mortem is an important examination that aims to find out more about a person’s illness to advance medical knowledge.

Sometimes a person may have given their consent before they died. If they did not, then a consented post-mortem cannot take place without the agreement of the next-of-kin.

The process of gaining consent is a detailed process and involves asking several questions to make sure the deceased person’s wishes, and those of the next-of-kin are known and respected. A copy of the consent form will be offered along with an NHS booklet providing additional information about the examination.

Hospital post-mortems may be limited to areas of the body such as the chest or head. Only the organs or tissue you have agreed to can be removed for examination. All of this will be discussed with you. And you should be given at least 24 hours to consider your decision. You should also be given the contact details of someone to speak to should you change your mind.

Please be assured the post-mortem examination will be carried out sympathetically and will not normally delay funeral arrangements.

The bereavement office will be able to support you in making the decision that is right for you. It is entirely up to you whether or not to grant permission. The result of the examination may be obtained from the deceased person’s consultant or General Practitioner. More information on post-mortems can be found here: Post-mortem - NHS (


The Coroner and Post-Mortems

A coroner is an independent judicial officer with legal powers working on behalf of the Crown. Coroners officers, who may be civilians or police officers, work under the direction of coroners and liaise with bereaved families, police, doctors and funeral directors.

Some deaths are reported by the hospital doctors to the Coroner. There are several reasons why the doctor would report a death, and these can include:

  • Deaths that occur within 24 hours of admission
  • All sudden deaths
  • Deaths where the medical cause is unknown
  • Deaths where the cause is unnatural for example as the result of an accident
  • Deaths from poisoning
  • Deaths during an operation or shortly afterwards
  • Deaths caused by an industrial disease
  • Deaths when the patient is admitted unconscious and if diagnosis cannot be confirmed
  • Deaths which occur because of a fall or injury causing fractures in the elderly
  • Deaths from alcohol or drug related illness

The coroner's role is to inquire into deaths reported to them which may be unnatural for any reason or of unexpected and unknown cause. The coroner or their officer will gather information about the person who has died and the circumstances of their death to determine whether a doctor can issue a medical certificate or whether further investigations are required.

If a medical certificate cannot be issued the coroner will usually order a post-mortem examination. The Coroner will then decide whether the post-mortem examination is needed. The Coroner has a legal right to request a post-mortem even if this is contrary to the family’s wishes.

You will not receive a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death from the hospital when a Coroner’s post-mortem examination is carried out. If there is a post-mortem, the results go only to the Coroner in the first instance but can be obtained later by the General Practitioner (GP) of the person who has died.

When an inquest is to be held, the death cannot be registered until after the conclusion of the inquest. An interim certificate for the funeral to take place will normally be issued at the opening of the inquest. After the inquest has been held, the death will be registered.

Please tell your funeral director if the death is reported to the Coroner. He or she will liaise with the Coroner on your behalf and let you know when you can register the death at the Register Office. You will be advised by the Care After Death Team if or when you need to contact the Coroner.

The Gwent Coroner's Office is based in Newport and can be contacted on:

Telephone: 01633 414600


Website: Gwent Coroner Service | Newport City Council