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Death Certification And Coroner Services

Volume 406: debated on Wednesday 4 June 2003

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Today I am publishing and placing in the Library the report of the fundamental review of death certification and coroner services. This comprehensive and thoughtful report is the work of an independent review group chaired by Tom Luce, formerly of the Department of Health.I am very grateful to Tom Luce and his colleagues for delivering such a wide-ranging and careful report. In their comprehensive analysis of this complex and difficult area, they have consulted very widely, taking into account the views of families, interest groups, and the many professions and organisations that work in this field. This is not an easy topic, nor is it an area where there are simple answers. A careful balance is required between the requirement to investigate deaths that are a matter of legitimate public concern, and the need to respect the private grief of individual families. This report recommends some very significant changes and improvements to the way in which deaths are currently investigated and certified. It also highlights the good work being done by many of those working in this long neglected public service.We do not intend to respond to the detailed proposals in the Luce Report at this stage. This is because we need to consider them alongside the Second Report of the Shipman Inquiry, chaired by Dame Janet Smith, which will focus on death and cremation certification, and police investigation.I am pleased to announce that Tom Luce has agreed to do some further work on the links between the two reports. Once that has been completed, we will be able to announce plans for taking this work forward.