Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

The role of the coroner

Coroners are independent judicial officers, appointed and paid for by local authorities, who are responsible for investigating violent, unnatural or sudden deaths of unknown cause.

Unnatural or sudden deaths include:

  1. death after accident or injury
  2. death following an industrial disease
  3. death during a surgical operation
  4. death before recovery from an anaesthetic
  5. deaths which are violent or unnatural for example, suicide, accident, or drug or alcohol overdose
  6. deaths which are sudden and unexplained for instance, a sudden infant death (cot death)

In addition to this, if the deceased was not seen by the doctor during the 14 days before the death, the death must be reported to the coroner.

Anyone who is concerned about the cause of a death can inform a coroner about it, but in most cases a death will be reported to the coroner by a doctor or the police. 

Coroners' post-mortem examinations are carried out by pathologists under the authority of the coroner. Although the HTA does not regulate coroners, all post-mortem examinations - including those authorised by a coroner - must be carried out on premises licensed by the HTA. 

Information about how the work of coroners links to the HTA is provided in our coroners' FAQs and within our codes of practice on post-mortem examination and disposal. Read our codes of practice on post-mortem examination and disposal of human tissue.

Although the HTA's regulatory remit does not extend to coroners, post-mortem examinations authorised by a coroner must be carried out on premises licensed by the HTA. Additionally, tissue removed during coroners' post-mortem examinations must be stored on premises licensed by the HTA, unless it has been referred for specialist analysis and / or examination, and will be retuned to licensed premises for continued storage or use for scheduled purposes.

Read our FAQs about a coroner's post-mortem here

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