We began looking at the coronial process a few weeks ago with our blog “Police are preparing a report for the Coroner. What does that mean?”
Most of the Coroner’s work is in relation to the investigation of deaths; but not every time a person dies is their death reported to the Coroner. The Coroners Act (the Act) requires only certain deaths be reported; they’re called “reportable deaths”. Once a death is reported, usually by police or a doctor (but everyone is obligated to report a death if they are aware that it is reportable), the Coroner then investigates it.
So, the obvious question: “What is a reportable death”?
Firstly, the South Australian Coroner’s powers are limited to deaths that have a connection to South Australia:
- occurred or possibly occurred in South Australia;
- the body of the deceased is in South Australia;
- at the time of death the deceased normally lived in South Australia; or
- the deceased was on a flight/vessel going to disembark in South Australia.
Secondly, the Act goes on to say that a death is reportable if it is:
- an unexpected, violent or unnatural death;
- of unknown cause, not certified by a doctor, or where no death certificate will be issued;
- a death on a flight or voyage to South Australia;
- a death in custody for example:
- in police custody or in the process of being apprehended, evading apprehension or escaping or attempting to escape apprehension; or
- of a person being detained in any place within the State under an Act or law.
- for some deaths, one which occurred during or soon after medical treatment, for example:
- during, as a result of or within 24 hours of some surgical or invasive medical procedures including the anaesthetic;
- within 24 hours of being discharged from hospital or having sought emergency treatment in hospital;
- during or within 24 hours of medical treatment for which consent was given under the Guardianship and Administration Act 1993 and Consent to Medical Treatment and Palliative Care Act 1995; or
- of a person under the care of the State as result of State legislation; for example some sections of the Guardianship and Administration Act 1993, Child Protection Act 1993, Mental Health Act 1993 and the Supported Residential Facilities Act 1992.
The Coroner is not obligated to investigate if the person died outside of South Australia and the Coroner in another State is investigating the death.
Once a death has been reported the Coroner then needs to decide whether there will be an inquest into the death or whether he will make findings about the death without holding an inquest. We’ll discuss this in our next blog of the series on “Reporting to the Coroner”.