In all of the countries of the United Kingdom, the law values every individual. This means that if someone dies, it is essential that the cause of their death is known and recorded. There are differences in the way this is done in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but the principle of ensuring any death that is not from natural causes is identified and appropriate action taken is the same everywhere. If someone has caused the death they must be found and prosecuted if appropriate and if it was an accident or suicide we need to know if something could have been done to prevent this and whether anything be changed to prevent further tragedy in the future.

As medicine has advanced it has also become more and more important to accurately record any diseases that have caused the death so resources can be accurately allocated towards prevention, care and treatment in the future.

In a diverse society not all bereaved families will believe these issues to be the most important after someone has died. Coroners, procurators fiscal and registrars understand, for example, that some faiths find post-mortem examinations unacceptable and require a funeral to be carried out very soon after the death. They will be sympathetic to affected families and avoid unnecessary examinations and delays but they must also obey the law.

Coroners in England, Wales and Northern Ireland