Medicolegal Death Investigation: Coroner and Forensic Pathology Functions and Processes in Victoria, Australia Academic Article uri icon


  • The medicolegal death investigation in Victoria, Australia is a traditional coroner system based on the model in England and Wales in the early 20th Century. In 1985, the first of a series of legislative amendments were made that proved the vanguard of reform of the coroners' jurisdictions in Australia. The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (the Institute) was established by the Coroners Act 1985 (Vic.), now the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine Act 1985 (Vic.), to provide forensic pathology, medical, and related scientific services needed by the justice system. In addition to death investigation, other forensic and scientific services are performed by the Institute including: clinical medical examinations and support services for assault victims and perpetrators, forensic toxicology services and molecular biology, and anthropology and odontology services in relation to human identification. Medical and nursing staff provide medical information and support to families in a therapeutic setting, as well as direct referral to clinical medical specialists. This takes place where a medical death investigation procedure uncovers genetic or familial disease that may place other family members at risk of future illness. A donor tissue bank ensures that a death also provides the opportunity for families to donate organs and tissues from the deceased for transplantation. Today, the traditional autopsy is one of several modalities of death investigation with postmortem radiology and imaging playing a significant role. This paper describes the principles and new processes at the Institute that support the coroner in death investigation and prevention as well as the therapeutic services designed to relieve the burden of disease on the community.

publication date

  • 2017