Mesothelioma Claim - Why is the Coroner involved and will there be a Post Mortem?
If a person dies from mesothelioma or lung cancer then their death isn’t considered to be due to natural causes. Legally, an investigation or inquest into the death has to be carried out by the local Coroner.
For many suffering from mesothelioma or lung cancer this is a cause of anxiety.
For families who lose a person to mesothelioma or lung cancer, the involvement of a Coroner comes as a shock and causes a lot of distress.
If you are bringing a mesothelioma claim or lung cancer claim and are worried about what happens after you die then you should speak to your specialist asbestos solicitor for information and advice.
If someone you know has died from mesothelioma or lung cancer, whether or not they were bringing, had or had not brought a claim then you can contact one of our specialist asbestos solicitors for advice.
What is the Coroner’s job?
The Coroner’s job is to investigate and decide the circumstances surrounding and the cause of the person’s death. The Coroner will identify who has died and when, which illness the person was suffering from and what caused the illness.
The Coroner’s job isn’t to decide who is to blame for the death.
What is the process if a person dies from mesothelioma or lung cancer?
Reporting the Death
If a person dies from mesothelioma or lung cancer at home then usually their GP reports the death to the Coroner. If the person dies in a hospital or hospice then the treating medical staff will report the death.
Initial contact with the Coroner’s Officer
The Coroner’s Officer, who assists the Coroner, is usually the point of contact for family members. The Officer will ask about the person’s work history and exposure to asbestos dust. If the person was bringing or had brought a mesothelioma or lung cancer claim then you should give the Coroner’s Officer the details of your asbestos solicitor who can then provide the person’s work history and asbestos exposure evidence. This will assist and help progress the Coroner’s investigation.
Post Mortem Examination
The Coroner might decide that a post mortem examination is necessary. Sometimes, lung tissue samples are taken and sent to a laboratory for further analysis to determine the part played by asbestos in the person’s death.
In a mesothelioma claim the Coroner might decide a post mortem is not needed if the person had a biopsy confirming the diagnosis during their lifetime.
Usually in lung cancer cases a post mortem is carried out. Lung tissue samples are taken and analysed using a special microscope to assess the level of asbestos fibres in the lungs. The amount of fibres could help establish that the lung cancer was asbestos related.
The pathologist carries out the post mortem examination within a few days of the death and prepares a report for the Coroner. After the examination the funeral can take place.
Inquest opened and adjourned
The Coroner will open and adjourn the inquest so that the documents and evidence needed by the Coroner can be gathered.
Once the investigations have been completed the inquest will be re-opened.
The Coroner will issue an interim death certificate shortly after the death.
The Coroner might decide to conclude the investigation or inquest without a hearing. The Coroner will provide his/her verdict as to the cause of the person’s death in writing.
Sometimes, the Coroner does this at a final hearing.
At this hearing the Coroner considers all the evidence including the post mortem report and evidence of the person’s work history and exposure to asbestos dust.
Family members can attend and ask questions of anyone called to give evidence.
The pathologist who carried out the post mortem examination might attend the hearing to give evidence to the Coroner and answer any questions the Coroner, we or family members might have.
Our specialist asbestos solicitors will also attend the Inquest to provide support to the grieving family members and to ask any questions that haven’t been answered.
Once the Coroner has considered and heard all the evidence and answered any questions, he/she gives their ‘verdict’ for the cause of the person’s death.
In mesothelioma or lung cancer cases the court may conclude the death was due to an industrial disease.
If a mesothelioma claim or lung cancer claim is being brought then this conclusion can be helpful. However, if the Coroner does not reach this conclusion then it does not mean that you cannot bring a mesothelioma claim or lung cancer claim.
After the inquest is concluded the Coroner will arrange for the death to be registered and a final death certificate is then issued.
Lung Tissue Samples
After the Inquest has concluded, the Coroner’s officer might ask family members what to do with any lung tissue samples taken from the person. The samples could be retained, disposed of respectfully and sensitively by the hospital, donated for medical research or released to you for burial or cremation.
You should speak to one of our specialist asbestos solicitors before making any decision because in some asbestos claims, such as lung cancer claims, it is advisable that the lung tissue samples be retained until the claim is concluded. If a mesothelioma claim or lung cancer claim is being brought or will be brought at a future date your opponents might argue that you withheld vital evidence by not retaining the lung tissue samples and might persuade the court that you should not be allowed to bring a claim for that reason.
This page was last updated on: 9 May 2017, 4:24 p.m.