Concerns about a post mortem
What if I have concerns about the quality of the post mortem or the cause of death given by the pathologist?
If you have concerns about the quality of the post mortem, the cause of death given, or the actions of the pathologist who conducted the post mortem, you should first contact the coroner. The coroner is responsible for organising the post mortem and for choosing the pathologist who conducted it. The coroner should be able to resolve any issues you may have.
If the issue cannot be resolved, you can arrange for a separate, additional post mortem, once the coroner has released the body. The coroner may be able to provide the name of another suitable pathologist who could conduct this second post mortem for you and may be able to help organise it. If not, you can contact your local NHS hospital’s histopathology department, which may be able to suggest a suitable pathologist and advise you on how to arrange a second post mortem.
Alternatively, you can seek the advice of a legal firm specialising in criminal, personal accident or medical negligence who will have suitable local contacts.
The Royal College of Pathologists is not able to recommend individual pathologists to carry out second post mortems.
If the person died in hospital, you can ask for a consented post mortem to take place. This can be done by contacting the consultant who was responsible for their care in hospital, via the hospital’s bereavement team. If you do not want staff at that hospital to be involved in a post mortem, you can contact a neighbouring trust to undertake it.
Is there a cost for a post mortem?
There is no cost for any type of initial post mortem required by the hospital or coroner. However, if you want a second post mortem to be performed, there may be a fee. You should ask what the whole fee is before the post mortem takes place. This will include the pathologist’s fee and mortuary charges.
What can I do if I want to make a complaint about a pathologist?
If the coroner is unable to help and the problem relates to the activities of the pathologist, you can contact the General Medical Council (GMC), which is responsible for investigating complaints against doctors. However, you should only do this if you have already made a formal complaint to the coroner and it has not been resolved. The GMC deals with the most serious concerns about doctors and would normally only expect concerns about a pathologist to be referred by the coroner. The GMC can take action to remove or restrict a doctor’s right to practise if it considers that there has been a serious or persistent breach of its guidance.
The Royal College of Pathologists is responsible for setting standards that pathologists work to but it does not have a role in investigating complaints against pathologists.