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How to Write a Coroner's Report

Updated February 21, 2017

At the conclusion of a post-mortem examination, a coroner's report is generated and released to the public to write the final chapter on a questionable death. The document sums up relevant data, explaining both circumstances and causes contributing to the event. Your coroner's report may be subject to a specific legal format so there's no question about its authenticity, but if you've been left to your own devices, make sure your format, facts, terms and language are irrefutable.

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Understand that the size and format of a coroner's report is subjective. Contrast the one-page "record of death narrative" (link below) to the eight-page coroner's report released after Anna Nicole Smith's death in 2007 (see link) to see major language and length differences.

Design a structured coroner's report format bearing numbers or Roman numerals if you've no template from which to work so the findings are categorised and presented in an orderly manner. Supply autopsy date, the times the procedure started and ended, an estimated time of death, and your name and those of other clinicians participating in the autopsy. Record the legal name of the decedent, age, weight, height and the initial the cause of death as determined by law officials or medical personnel.

Describe test results related to the analysis of bodily fluids and tissue--blood, urine, stomach contents and organs--elaborating on findings as they relate to the suspected cause of death. Include information on fluids retrieved from female bodies to substantiate a sexual assault.

Employ a standard medical drawing of the front and back of a human body to point out contributory information substantiating cause of death: bullet holes, hypodermic needle marks, bruises, cuts, contusions, broken bones, bite marks and other relevant blemishes. Highlight, circle and make notations on this rendering to call attention to these findings.

Use a first person, narrative style when drafting your coroner's report. Explain the result you sought when commencing the autopsy and what you learnt. Distinguish your findings from those of other medical or law enforcement officials. Use proper medical terminology. Avoid abbreviations. Provide generic, not brand, names of pharmaceuticals. Describe the "who, what, where, why and when" surrounding the death to take readers from supposition to conclusion.

Summarise findings at the end of your coroner's report, concluding a final cause of death: natural causes, lawful or unlawful death, accidental death, or inconclusive. Proof the report once it's been edited and ask someone unfamiliar with the case to peruse the content; he should be able to read the content and understand how the decedent died.

Use "statement of truth" language to conclude your coroner's report, as this addendum complies with Good Medical Practices standards, providing a formal opportunity to certify your findings, to your best knowledge and understanding. Conclude the report by adding your signature and the date.

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Things You'll Need

  • Autopsy results
  • Test results
  • Anecdotal data

About the Author

Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.

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