The role of medical examiners

Medical examiners are senior medical doctors, who are trained in the legal and clinical elements of death certification processes. Their role includes: 

  • speaking to the doctor who was treating the patient on their final illness
  • reviewing the medical records and any supporting diagnostic information 
  • agreeing the proposed cause of death and the overall accuracy of the medical certificate cause of death 
  • discussing the cause of death with the next of kin/informant and establishing if they have any concerns with care that could have impacted/led to death
  • acting as a medical advice resource for the local coroner
  • informing clinical governance systems to highlight deceased patients who require a mortality case record review so any formal learning can be gained for the provider organisation
  • ensuring that patterns and or concerns with care and associated clinicians and or providers are raised appropriately
  • enabling a medical examiner officer to conduct component parts of the role under delegated authority.

To explain more about the role of medical examiners, Dr Alan Fletcher, recently appointed National Medical Examiner, has provided the following video resources. 

The independence of medical examiners 

A medical examiner must always be independent of the case and cannot know, or have treated, the deceased patient on which they are carrying out scrutiny of the circumstances of death.

They are responsible for completing the following steps to arrive at their decision:

  • a proportionate review of medical records
  • interaction with the attending doctor
  • interaction with the bereaved. 

The above should be completed within 24 hours of the medical notes being received (for cases not investigated by the Coroner). The interaction with the attending doctor and the bereaved may be undertaken in collaboration with medical examiner officers.