A Special Scar: The Experiences of People Bereaved by Suicide

By Alison Wertheimer | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

The inquest

I just wanted to be part of it. I didn't want it to be something done by strangers…the last thing that would happen to Patricia, where, in a sense, there was some sort of decision to be made. There were certain possibilities, certain choices to be made, and I suppose I just wanted to have something to do with it. I just wanted to say my bit. (Francesca)


Introduction

In England and Wales, all unnatural deaths are subject to legal investigation, including suspected suicides, and enquiries usually begin immediately after the body has been discovered. The police will take statements from relevant people such as members of the dead person's immediate family, the person or persons who discovered the body, and any other witnesses; additional evidence will include farewell notes or letters, and the pathologist's post-mortem report. The coroner's officer (see below), who acts as the coroner's agent, is responsible for ensuring that the necessary evidence is available to the coroner before the main inquest takes place.

Coroners can be either medically or legally qualified (though, in practice, the majority of coroners currently hold a legal qualification, and a minority are both medically and legally qualified). Local authorities are responsible for the appointment of coroners and for meeting the cost of running the courts; the coroner's officers who staff the courts are former members of the police force, although a government sponsored committee of inquiry has proposed that they could be replaced by specially trained civilians (HMSO 1971).

In accordance with the Coroners Rules (HMSO 1984), the coroner's brief is to ascertain the identity of the deceased and how, when and where they died. The inquest will usually be opened formally by the coroner within a day or two of the death, and this is normally a brief hearing; formal identification of the person is made, after which the body can be released for burial or cremation. The inquest is then adjourned. In the ensuing weeks, the gathering of evidence will continue, and the full inquest will take

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A Special Scar: The Experiences of People Bereaved by Suicide
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface to the Second Edition xiv
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • Part 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Suicide: an Introduction 3
  • Chapter 2 - Survivors of Suicide 17
  • Part 2 - Aspects of Suicide Bereavement 33
  • Chapter 3 - Meeting the Survivors 35
  • Chapter 4 - When the Suicide Happens 39
  • Chapter 5 - Looking Back 53
  • Chapter 6 - Why Did It Happen? the Search for Understanding 66
  • Chapter 7 - The Inquest 79
  • Chapter 8 - Funerals 90
  • Chapter 9 - Facing Suicide as a Family 95
  • Chapter 10 - The Impact of Suicide on Individual Family Members 108
  • Chapter 11 - Facing the World 124
  • Chapter 12 - Looking for Support 136
  • Chapter 13 - Facing the Feelings 149
  • Chapter 14 - Finding a Way Through 166
  • Part 3 - Responding to People Bereaved by Suicide 179
  • Chapter 15 - Meeting the Needs of Survivors 181
  • Chapter 16 - Groups for People Bereaved by Suicide 196
  • Chapter 17 - Counselling People Bereaved by Suicide 215
  • Postscript 237
  • Appendix 1 239
  • Appendix 2 244
  • References 247
  • Name Index 257
  • Subject Index 261
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