Removing stress and confusion from inquest process a top priority, say MPS

29 January 2024

Medical Protection Society (MPS) has said Coroner’s Inquests in Ireland must remain inquisitorial rather than adversarial, working to bring together the most relevant witnesses and reduce the time taken for an outcome. 

The suggestions were set out in response to the Irish Government’s Coroner Reform Consultation.

Among its recommendations, MPS proposes that the Garda Síochána should remain involved for important tasks such as body identification but that a Coroner is best placed to approach witnesses, including doctors, to attend court. This would remove the distressing experience of having the Garda as a first point of contact, which can make Inquests appear as though they are a personal criminal investigation against witnesses.

MPS - which protects the professional interests of over 16,000 healthcare professionals in Ireland - also said the creation of a step-by-step guide for families and witnesses would ensure that those involved fully understand the purpose of an inquest, and may reduce the need for costly legal representation.

To further support the outcome of inquests and those involved, MPS proposes that where appropriate, a pre-Inquest meeting could be held between legal representatives and the Coroner. This meeting would enable the selection of the most appropriate witnesses who provide essential evidence to the case, in turn reducing the time taken during the court proceedings.

Dr James Thorpe, Deputy Medical Director at MPS, said: “We welcome the opportunity to provide our input into the consultation process and set out our suggestions to keep the process inquisitorial and reduce any stress and confusion that can be experienced during an Inquest.

“Inquests can sometimes feel akin to a high court civil action with requests from legal representatives for a large number of medical personnel to attend.

“Our proposal of a pre-Inquest meeting, where appropriate, could help to select the most essential witnesses to the case, reducing the time taken. This, with our other recommendations may help to reduce any unnecessary stress or confusion to all involved.

“We believe that our recommendations would greatly assist bringing all parties back to the fundamental purpose of an inquest in terms of investigating who died, where, when and the cause of death.

“MPS members can contact us for advice in relation to inquests, be that writing a statement for the coroner or attending an inquest to giving evidence.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

For further information contact E: [email protected]

The submission is available online here

About MPS

The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”) is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support and can also provide, depending on the type of membership required, the right to request indemnity for any complaints or claims arising from professional practice.

Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.

Our philosophy is to support safe practice in medicine and dentistry by helping to avert problems in the first place. We do this by promoting risk management through our workshops, E-learning, clinical risk assessments, publications, conferences, lectures and presentations.

MPS is not an insurance company. All the benefits of membership of MPS are discretionary as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association.