3 years ago

Contradictory coroners? Decision-making in death investigations

Aim

National coroner data demonstrate differences in the rates at which coroners across England and Wales choose to investigate reported deaths and the frequency by which they record certain conclusions. This study sought to examine how decisions are made by coroners and whether they differed when faced with identical case information.

Methods

Three different clinical scenarios were circulated via a web link to all senior coroners. The case information was contained within a ‘Decision Board’ displayed on screen. Each scenario had nine consistent categories of information, such as the cause of death and the medical history. Participants were asked to indicate an inquest conclusion (verdict) using free text and to provide comments. The way in which participants accessed the case information (order, frequency, etc) was recorded by the computer software.

Results

35 coroners responded. There was little consensus as to conclusion with scenarios 1 and 2 generating four different outcomes and scenario 3 generating an extraordinary eight different conclusions among respondents. Despite coming to widely different conclusions, coroners demonstrated very similar decision-making processes. Conclusions were robustly defended yet proffered alternatives were plentiful. The comments made indicated a difference in the personal attitudes of coroners towards case information.

Conclusions

Different coroners faced with identical case information arrived at widely different case outcomes ranging from no further investigation to finding numerous alternative verdicts. Disparity appeared to be a product of differing personal attitudes among coroners. National coroner consensus to achieve a shared inference from available evidence is urgently needed.

Publisher URL: http://jcp.bmj.com/cgi/content/short/70/9/787

DOI: 10.1136/jclinpath-2017-204333

You might also like
Discover & Discuss Important Research

Keeping up-to-date with research can feel impossible, with papers being published faster than you'll ever be able to read them. That's where Researcher comes in: we're simplifying discovery and making important discussions happen. With over 19,000 sources, including peer-reviewed journals, preprints, blogs, universities, podcasts and Live events across 10 research areas, you'll never miss what's important to you. It's like social media, but better. Oh, and we should mention - it's free.

  • Download from Google Play
  • Download from App Store
  • Download from AppInChina

Researcher displays publicly available abstracts and doesn’t host any full article content. If the content is open access, we will direct clicks from the abstracts to the publisher website and display the PDF copy on our platform. Clicks to view the full text will be directed to the publisher website, where only users with subscriptions or access through their institution are able to view the full article.