NSW Health Pathology’s Forensic Medicine service carries out post-mortem examinations and related testing at the direction of the Coroner to help investigate unexplained or unexpected deaths in NSW. We are one of a number of agencies that are involved in the coronial pathway including NSW Police and NSW Communities and Justice.
More than 6,000 deaths a year are referred to the NSW Coroner and at Forensic Medicine we place the highest priority on supporting both a bereaved family’s need for answers as well as the Coroner’s role in delivering justice and improving the health and safety of communities across NSW.
Coronial post-mortem examinations in NSW may only be performed by forensic pathologists at one of three dedicated facilities in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. Our specialist teams include forensic pathologists, radiologists, radiographers, forensic post-mortem technicians, forensic social workers and administrative staff. The services of odontologists, anthropologists and DNA biologists may also be required.
Many post-mortem examination procedures are non-invasive and can include a review of medical records, computed tomography (CT) scanning, an external examination of the body and the collection of body fluids for toxicology or other laboratory tests. If these non-invasive procedures do not provide sufficient information to establish the cause of death, an examination similar to a surgical operation is required. At all times our forensic medicine experts use the least invasive method possible to determine a cause of death.
Our forensic teams carry out coronial post-mortem examinations within a few days of admission to one of our facilities but we acknowledge that timeframes can vary depending on the manner of death and types of clinical tests required.
We understand how vital it is that information and support is provided to a deceased person’s loved ones. After each new referral, a forensic social worker contacts the senior next-of-kin to provide updates on the post-mortem examination process and timeline. Our forensic social workers also facilitate viewings at our facilities and provide essential resources to assist with the grieving process.
More information about the support provided to families can be found here. In addition the Coroners Court publishes a brochure which explains the initial steps after a death is reported to the Coroner.
Objecting to a Post-Mortem Examination
At times a deceased person’s family may object to a post-mortem examination. For more information on how to lodge an objection please visit the Coroner’s Court website.
Post-mortem examination reports are prepared specifically for the Coroner. Out of respect for privacy we do not release information about specific coronial cases to the media or public.
Forensic Medicine encourages family members to contact us with any concerns or compliments about their experience with our service. Compliments can provide essential information about what families value in the work we do and concerns help us to continually improve our service.
Sydney: 02 9563 9000 | Newcastle: 02 4935 9700 | Wollongong: 02 4222 5466