Coroners and Justice Act 2009
The Board of Deputies of British Jews participated in the discussions that took place during the drafting of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. It is against this background that the document “Reform of the Coroner System – Next Stage” has been considered.
The principles which were enunciated previously can be summarised as follows:
• The two core issues are (i) that in the Jewish tradition burial needs to take place as soon as possible, and preferably within 24 hours of death; and (ii) that the deceased’s body should be treated with full respect, avoiding if at all possible invasive interventions.
• Expressing a general “Jewish community” view can provide general principles, but the Coroner System, dealing as it does with a difficult and stressful stage of life, needs to be sensitive at all times to the needs of the individual and family.
• Reform of the Coroner System will benefit the Jewish community. Achieving consistency nationally will help to make transparent how the system is working according to defined benchmarks, not only about how death of a member of the Jewish community should be handled, but also about how the bereaved Jewish family should be supported.
• There was a guarded welcome by the Jewish community to creation of the new “medical examiner” system which is intended to back up Coroner Reform. Although this may mean that Coroners will now be acting against a background of more robust and accurate medical advice, which may expedite some death certification and lead to more rapid release of bodies for burial, simultaneously there is a danger that this system may create another level of bureaucracy and thus lead to unacceptable further delays in release for burial.
• The inclusion of sensible provision for developing new ways of looking at the body after death, including both imaging and more limited sampling than a full autopsy, was welcomed; the community noted that the resources need to be available within the reformed Coroner System for these innovations to take place and be implemented in a consistent nationwide fashion.
• For the Jewish community the key issue of education and training about Jewish practices is central to Coroner Reform. The community has submitted that an essential component of any reform process, and of the guidelines that will be issued in support, is that the views of faith traditions must be known to doctors, other health care professionals, and indeed all those involved in decision making around the time of death. Such education and training needs to be provided away from the pressures of an emergency, or stressful, environment.