The long awaited Coroners (Amendment) Bill 2018 (hereinafter known as "the Bill") was passed by Oireachtas (Final Stage) on 3 July 2019. The Bill aims to modernise and significantly clarify and strengthen the law relating to the reporting of deaths by introducing a number of key legislative changes to the Coroners Act 1962 as a result of public unease regarding high profile cases.
Schedule of Deaths reportable to the Coroner
Prior to the Bill, only certain deaths were required to be immediately reported to the Coroner. The Bill now sets out a detailed schedule provides clarity on reportable deaths, although not every reported death will result in a post mortem examination or inquest taking place. The Bill contains express requirements for mandatory reporting of:
Any death by suicide or assisted suicide; Any maternal death or late maternal death; In the case of an infant death, any death caused wholly or partially by maternal drug addiction; Any death of a stillborn child, death intrapartum or infant death; Any death where deceased person is unidentified; A death caused wholly or partially by a cut or contusion; Any death caused wholly or partially by an incident occurring on a railway or arising on a train, aircraft, ship or other vessel; Any death caused wholly or partially by a notifiable disease, adverse reaction to any drug, infection caused by previously contaminated blood product, or due to a prion disease; Any death occurring in an institution for the care and treatment of persons with a physical or mental disability. Duty to Hold an Inquest
The Coroner is currently obliged to hold an inquest where he or she is of the opinion that the death may have occurred in a violent or unnatural manner, or "suddenly and from unknown causes", the Bill now amends that to read deaths "unexpected and from unknown causes".
This results in a standardised approach to inquests if the deceased was in State custody or detention; or in circumstances where the death is a maternal death or late maternal death. Maternal death is defined in the Bill as a
"death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of the end of pregnancy from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management...".
Late maternal death is defined as a
"death occurring more than 42 days and less than 365 days after the end of pregnancy from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management...".;
This will lead to increased transparency...