Parents who suffer a stillbirth could now gain answers from an inquest into their baby’s death.

Under current legislation Coroners cannot investigate a death when it is known that the baby was not born alive. If there is doubt as to whether a baby was born alive a Coroner may investigate this however they must halt the investigation if it is determined that the baby was stillborn.

This new consultation considers the case for Coroners investigating stillbirths in England and Wales. It has been suggested that the scope of the inquest could now include all stillbirths that occur at or after the 37th week of gestation and cover matters such as access to documents and medical examination of the stillborn baby. Coroners would therefore be able to investigate and not only be able to provide parents with the answers they need on what went wrong and why, but they could also consider whether any lessons could be learned to prevent future avoidable deaths.

This consultation sets out proposals for how these investigations could be undertaken and reflects on existing processes and arrangements for coronial investigations into child and adult deaths.

The new proposals seek to deliver three objectives:

  • To bring greater independence to the way stillbirths are investigated;
  • The ensure transparency and enhance the involvement of bereaved parents in the stillbirth investigation processes, including in the development of recommendations aimed at improving maternity care; and
  • To effectively identify where lessons can be learnt across the health system in order to provide system-wide improvements to the delivery of maternity services and the general care and safety of expectant mothers thus helping to prevent future avoidable stillbirths.

Of note, Coroner’s investigations will not replace current investigations undertaken by the hospital or NHS agencies.

The consultation closes on 18 June and the Government will publish its response later this year.

Markel Law has an experienced team of solicitors who can assist with Inquests. Follow this link to find out more about Markel Law and how we can assist you.