Obtaining post mortem results
Full post mortem examination reports are technical medical documents and are not usually written with the lay person in mind, although some pathologists may add a 'plain English' summary if this is specifically requested. It can be very difficult to read such documents about someone you have been close to, even if you understand the medical terminology.
Full reports are often not available for several weeks (or even months) after the initial examination depending on the follow-up tests that may be required such as histological examination of the tissues under a microscope.
Coroners' post mortem examination results
The Coroner or Coroner's Officer will give you the cause of death found by the pathologist at a coroner's post mortem examination. In some instances further tests are required for this to be fully determined.
If you want a written copy of the full report you need to ask the coroner's officer or to write to the Coroner concerned and they may charge a fee. Some Coroners prefer to send the report to a doctor to explain and discuss the findings with you. This may be a hospital doctor who was involved in the care of the deceased or a general practitioner of your choosing. If there is an inquest, the report may not be released until this is complete.
Hospital post mortem examination results
Consented post mortem examination results have to be requested from the hospital where the examination took place. Because the report is part of the medical record of the deceased you may have to complete a formal document requesting access to the Medical/Health Record to comply with the law on patient confidentiality. You can state that you only want the post mortem report. You may be charged a small fee for this. Most hospitals will release post mortem results to the immediate next of kin but they are not obliged to do so under the law that applies to medical records. Usually the next of kin will fulfil the criteria of the law by having a claim on the estate.
You can make an appointment with the hospital consultant or a general practitioner to discuss the report's findings. If the hospital has a bereavement office the staff there can often arrange this for you or you can approach the consultant's own secretary through the hospital switchboard.
Obtaining information about post mortem examinations carried out in the past
This is a complex area with many issues to consider.