Coroners, Coronavirus and controversy
25th June 2020
Thorny dilemmas for coroners
Coroners are experiencing difficulties when assessing which COVID-19 deaths to investigate, barrister David Regan has warned.
Coroners must determine whether to investigate a death, for example, if human error is involved, the death is violent or unnatural or caused by industrial disease. However, medical knowledge of the coronavirus is at an early stage, and the link between work and infection is easier to prove in a care worker than a shop worker.
Writing in this week’s NLJ, Regan of St John’s Chambers said: ‘Identifying which COVID-19 deaths are unnatural―and thus require coronial investigation and inquest―is not straightforward.
‘It is likely to give rise to a number of challenges. Deaths caused by exposure in work give rise to the greatest difficulty.’
In contrast, Regan says, the Lord Advocate has directed that all COVID-19 or presumed COVID-19 deaths in Scotland where the deceased might have contracted the infection at work or in a care home must be reported to the Procurator Fiscal, who performs the coronial role. See p7.