The Coroners Act 2008 (Vic): a medical investigator's perspective. Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • The legal basis of the medical investigation of deaths for the coroner has changed with the implementation of the Coroners Act 2008 (Vic) in Victoria. For the first time in Australia the notion of "preliminary examinations" has been created whereby medical investigators, for the most part forensic pathologists, have authority to carry out their own investigations without oversight or specific directions from a coroner. Presentation of a body to a medical investigator is sufficient authority for a range of procedures to be carried out, including external examinations, various forms of imaging, eg CT scans, as well as sampling of the surface of the body, wounds and oral cavities. Forensic odontology examinations may be undertaken and samples of body fluids collected and rapidly analysed (within 24 hours) for the presence of drugs or infections. Although incisions may be made in the body to obtain fluids for analysis, the dissection and removal of tissues may not be carried out without an order from the coroner. The findings of these preliminary examinations are reported to the coroner who, as a result, has access to far more detailed evidence upon which to base a decision as to whether to order an autopsy In addition, the more detailed medical information allows the coroner to direct the legal aspects of the ongoing investigation in a more efficient and focused manner. The introduction of this new medical process in Victoria has resulted in the autopsy rate diminishing to around 50% of deaths reported to a coroner.

publication date

  • February 1, 2010