Background: On 1 June 2005, amendments to the Coroners Rules 1984 were introduced in England and Wales. These principally cover the retention of tissues from autopsies and their subsequent disposal. This study assesses regional variations in the interpretations of the amendments, and their impact on local autopsy practice in Oxford.
Methods: A questionnaire was circulated to pathologists in 120 coronial jurisdictions, addressing conditions under which histological material could be retained. A local review of autopsy practice was conducted before and after the introduction of the amendments.
Results: Questionnaires were returned from 71 coronial jurisdictions. 35 (49%) coroners provided written guidelines on their interpretation of the amendments. In 52 (73%) jurisdictions, pathologists are authorised to retain material to confirm/refine causes of death from natural causes. In 77% of jurisdictions, coroner’s officers are responsible for obtaining instructions from the next of kin on subsequent retention, use or disposal of retained tissues. In Oxford, there has been a reduction in the proportion of cases in which histology is taken, but an increase in the proportion of cases in which a histology report is issued.
Conclusions: There is considerable regional variation in the interpretation of the 2005 Coroners Rules Amendments. These variations have potentially important implications for clinical practice.
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Published Online First 23 June 2006
Competing interests: None.