Current Affairs

Coroners could be given power to investigate stillbirths

The government has launched a consultation which could see coroners in England and Wales being given the authority to investigate stillbirths.

This move will mean more infant deaths are independently assessed allowing society to potentially determine causes for stillbirths and prevent them from happening.

The Ministry of Justice said while the number of pregnancies which end in stillbirths had seen a decline since the 1980s and had been the lowest on record, the department believes “there is still more that can be done” to prevent “avoidable” stillbirths.

Currently, coroners only investigate the deaths of infants who showed signs of life after being born.

The Ministry of Justice said: “Whilst we have robust and comprehensive systems for establishing the possible causes of a stillbirth and reviewing the care that had been provided, there is room to further strengthen these processes. Although many parents are satisfied with the results of these reviews, others feel they have not always been listened to, or that they have not had access to all the facts.

“Still other parents are concerned that the lessons revealed in these reviews are not always put into practice.”

The Chief Coroner of England and Wales repeatedly called for “proper consideration” on whether coroners should be given the power to investigate stillbirths or not.

The consultation has been launched in conjunction with the Department of Health and Social Care and a bill developed by the government has reached the stage of Royal Assent.

Responses to the consultation are currently being called upon. The consultation closes on 18 June 2019.

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