When a death is referred to the coroner

When a person dies apparently from unnatural causes or where the cause of death is not known, the coroner will be involved in investigating the death.

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    If the death is subject to a coronial inquiry, the death will still be registered. However, until such time as the State Coroner completes their inquiry the cause of death will not be stated. This is called an "incomplete" death registration. If required, a death certificate can be issued at this stage. 

    At the completion of their inquiry the State Coroner will advise the Registry of the cause of death details to be added to the death registration. A "complete" death certificate may then be issued by the Registry to the funeral director if previously ordered or an eligible applicant can apply directly to the Registry or a Court for a death certificate. 

     

    When someone dies unexpectedly

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    If you have found the body of the deceased, you should first call police on 000.

    When a person has died unexpectedly, from accident, injury or suspected unnatural causes, the death will generally be reported to the State Coroner's Office by police, doctors or hospital authorities who have been involved with the person's death.

    If you are the senior next of kin:

    • You will be contacted by a police officer, most likely from the Coronial Investigation Unit, who will provide you with a copy of the brochure When a Person Dies Suddenly and answer any initial questions you may have.
    • You may be asked to identify the deceased person.
    • Staff from DonateLife WA may contact you to ask if you will agree to organ or tissue donation

    The senior next of kin is the first person available from the following:

    • a spouse or de facto partner who was living with the person
    • a son or daughter of the deceased who is 18 years or older
    • a parent of the deceased person
    • an executor in the will of the deceased who was a personal representative of the deceased immediately before the death
    • any person nominated by the deceased to be contacted. 

    Identifying the deceased person's body

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    This is usually done by the next of kin or someone who knew the person well.

    If you are present at, or soon after the death, you may be asked to identify the person.

    If the person was not identified at the place of death, you may be contacted by a police officer and required to go to the State Mortuary in Perth or the local hospital to identify the body.

    Only one person is needed to do the identification but it is a good idea to take someone with you because it can be upsetting.

    Seeing the deceased person

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    Arrangements will be made for the deceased person to be taken to a mortuary where they can be viewed by the next of kin. The body is allowed to be touched unless the coroner directs otherwise.

    In Perth, arrangements can be made by contacting the State Mortuary on 08 6383 4884 or after hours on 08 6457 2536.

    In country areas, contact the local police station or Coroner's Court on 08 9425 2900. 

    More information is available in When a Person Dies Suddenly.

    Objecting to a post mortem examination or requesting an internal examination

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    Unless the coroner decides a post mortem examination must be held immediately, the senior next of kin is allowed to object. Before deciding to object, it is important to consider whether you have any concerns about the circumstances of your loved one's death. If a post mortem examination is not held, vital information may be lost.

    If you want to object, you should do so as soon as possible. In most cases, at least 24 hours will be allowed to enable objections to be made. Note that post mortem examinations are not conducted on weekends or public holidays.

    In some cases, the coroner may form the view that an internal post mortem examination is not required. If you have concerns about the circumstances of your loved one's death, you may ask for an internal post mortem examination to be conducted.

    To make an objection or request an internal post mortem examination: 

    • Call the State Coroner's Office during office hours on 08 9425 2900.
    • If it's after hours, phone the WA Police Coronial Investigation Unit on 08 9267 5700.

    Outcome of a post mortem examination

    The coroner will write to the next of kin with the results and the family will also be advised.

    You can get more information from the Office of the State Coroner's When a Person Dies suddenly document and Legal Aid WA.

    Requesting an inquest

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    Anyone can ask for an inquest into a death by writing to the coroner and giving reasons why you believe it is necessary.

    One is always held if the deceased was held in care or the death was caused or contributed to by anyone in the WA Police Force.

    There may be an inquest in other cases if the coroner believes it is necessary or desirable. This is usually because the facts are unclear or there is an issue of public importance such as public health and safety.

    If the coroner refuses your request, you can apply to the Supreme Court for an order that an inquest be held.

    Page reviewed 10 May 2020