A Research Guide for Students by I Lee
Translate this page to another language of your choice:

To translate a block of text or web page, click Bing Translate or Google Translate

Wall Street Executive Library Feature Site - This is not an ad but a link to a world of wonderful resources.
Reference  Sitmap
site search by freefind

CSI Mississauga
(Role of the Coroner)

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

Article printed on page 9 in the May 30-31, 2009 issue of
The Mississauga News under the feature: Health, Wellness & Beauty, Medicine Matters.

In the Canadian system, coroners are medically trained doctors who are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor to investigate certain deaths as defined in the Coroners Act. The jurisdiction is provincial. In Mississauga, four coroners take turns working 7-day 24-hour shifts. Coroners do not simply pronounce people dead. Coroners undertake the investigation of completely unexpected and sudden death. More elderly people are dying at home, the majority of whom die from natural causes and don't require investigation. At times, the police may ask a coroner's assistance when a person dies without the care of a doctor.

Any person having knowledge of sudden and expected death, or death under suspicious circumstances, must report to the coroner under Canadian law. It is not a task that can be delegated to another person. Examples of a coroner's investigations include all homicides, suicides, infant deaths, accidents, found human remains and most young people who die unexpectedly. Certain deaths in institutions and nursing homes must also be reported. The coroners' motto is "We speak for the dead."

The coroner's investigation determines five essential elements:

    1. The identity of the deceased.
    2. The date of death.
    3. The means of death.
    4. The location of death.
    5. How the means came to be.

Anyone who dies suddenly should not be moved without direction from the coroner. One of the first actions in an investigation entails the coroner issuing a warrant to take possession of the deceased. This allows evidence to be preserved, and often removes the burden of difficult decision-making from the family, and in fact, it can protect the privacy of the next of kin as well. Investigations record the time, and take measurements, photographs, interviews, evidence collection and more. When the scene is a public place such as a roadway, every effort is made to progress as quickly as possible. Police provide assistance to coroners and vice-versa. The scene and body are under the coroner's jurisdiction, and the coroner may issue warrants for seizure of items directly related to the death. The coroner enters premises where evidence having direct bearing on the death may be present.

Coroners have the resources of forensic science departments, pathologists and police crime labs available to them. Sometimes, the five questions surrounding death cannot be answered easily. When this happens, a warrant for autopsy will be sworn. Not all investigations require an autopsy. In Ontario, all cremations require a coroner's certification and review before they can proceed.

Coroner investigations do not involve any criminal prosecution and are not intended to find fault when set policies are ignored. This is a fallacy commonly assumed by the lay public. The role of coroner investigations is largely to protect the public. Coroners examine sensible ways in which needless death might be prevented. At times, the investigation requires input from the public by way of jurors and a public inquest is called. An inquest might examine all the evidence surrounding a death and come up with recommendations, which are forwarded to all concerned parties including the government of the day. Numerous safeguards have been instituted throughout the years by way of the coroner system. These include mandatory seat belts, bike helmets, smoke detectors and also policy changes in schools and health institutions. Deaths are seldom senseless if lessons can be learned to prevent other deaths. Thanks to coroners, the dead have a chance to utter the last word!

Related resources:
Coroner from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Role of the coroner in Australia, Canada, England and Wales, Hong Kong, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and United States.

Coroners - How they work from Surrey County, UK. "Coroners are independent judicial officers in England and Wales ... They are either lawyers or doctors ... Coroners enquire into those deaths reported to them. They will seek to establish the medical cause of death; if the cause remains in doubt after a post mortem, an inquest will be held."

What Does a Coroner Do? From What Does A ___ Do. "... coroners determine the time, manner and cause of a person's death. What many do not realize, however, is that a coroner is actually an elected or appointed official who may or may not have had training in forensic pathology."

Who Are the Coroners? From Coroners Service for Northern Ireland. "Coroners in Northern Ireland are either barristers or solicitors and are appointed by the Lord Chancellor ... Coroners inquire into deaths reported to them that appear to be: Unexpected or unexplained, As a result of violence, As a result of an accident, As a result of negligence, From any cause other than natural illness or disease, or In circumstances that may require investigation."

What Happens During a Coroner's Investigation? From Stephenson County, Illinois. "The coroner's verdict has no civil or criminal trial significance. The verdict and inquest proceedings are fact finding in nature and statistical in purpose."

Coroner’s Investigations Program "provides responsive and collaborative investigative services to law enforcement agencies, medical personnel, the funeral industry and families to assist in determining mode, manner and cause of death." From San Mateo County, California.

leaf Coroners Act from ServiceOntario eLaws, Government of Ontario, Canada.

leaf Social Work CSI? — Canadian Social Workers Take on Roles of Community Coroner and Special Investigator by Valerie Yeager, Social Work Today. "The coroner is responsible for determining the identity of the deceased and how, when, where, and by what means the death occurred. This includes identifying the medical cause of death, with assistance from pathologists and other professionals when necessary ... According to Canada’s Coroners Act, no one must interfere with the body or move potential evidence until directed to do so by the coroner following his or her arrival on the scene."

HOME           Other Articles by Dr. Kujtan