Understanding the Coronial Process

VIFM’s Role in the Coronial System

The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) provides specialist forensic medical and scientific services to the Coroners Court of Victoria (CCOV)to assist with their death investigations. The Institute is responsible for conducting the majority of the medical aspects of these medico-legal death investigations.

Our forensic pathology specialists assist the coroner by providing information such as the medical cause of death, and conclusions relating to medical aspects of the identity of the deceased. We also provide medical opinions regarding the probable circumstances of the death and these are of particular value in non-natural deaths such as suspected homicides.

Based on the information provided by the Institute together with a variety of other information collected by the Court, it is a Coroner who will formally determine the official cause of death and make conclusions about how the death occurred. Other sources of information that can assist the coronial investigation may include information from the police and other relevant agencies for examples ‘WorkSafe’ may be involved in the event of a death occurring as a result of an industrial accident.

When a death has been reported to the Coroner for investigation, the deceased person is admitted to the VIFM mortuary, (or in some cases the mortuary of a regional hospital) where the forensic medical examinations is undertaken leading to the production of specialist expert reports.

In addition to the services VIFM provides to CCOV for the purpose of the coronial investigation, our forensic pathologists are also available to families who may wish to discuss the outcomes of the medical investigation in order to gain a better understanding of the medical aspects of the death of their loved one. Arrangements to meet with our pathologists can be made through the Coroner’s Court of Victoria or by contacting our death investigation staff (see Who to Contact).

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What Happens When a Person is Admitted to VIFM?

In Victoria, a deceased person is admitted to the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (or in some cases, the mortuary of a regional hospital) if their death has been reported to the Coroners Court of Victoria. The Coroners Act 2008 requires the reporting of certain deaths, and provides for coroners to investigate these deaths.

Some of the reasons that a death is reported to the Coroner include:

  • Unexpected deaths,
  • Deaths that may be related to a medical procedure;
  • Violent or unnatural deaths, for example homicide, suicide, accident or injury,
  • If a person was ‘held in care’ prior to death, for example in police custody or in prison;
  • Deaths where a doctor is unable to complete a death certificate;
  • If the identity of the deceased is unknown.

When a deceased person is admitted to the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, the Coroner will make contact with the Senior Next of Kin to discuss what steps, if any, are necessary to conduct a medical investigation into the cause of death and/or circumstances of death.

The Coroner will also provide the Senior Next of Kin with progress updates of the investigation and any medical reports provided to the coroner.

Both the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine and Coroners Court of Victoria understand that this can be a highly distressing time for families and we therefore strive to return the deceased person to their family as soon as reasonably possible.

For more information, please download the VIFM Information Sheet: What Happens When Someone is Admitted to VIFM?

 

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