As things currently stand, Coroners only have the power to investigate the death of a baby who were born breathing. This therefore prevents parents of stillborn babies who appear healthy from being able to investigate the death of their babies through the Coroner’s Court.
This may all change under new Government legislation which would enable Coroners to investigate stillbirths. It is the intended benefit that widening the Coroner’s powers to include investigating stillbirths would help prevent future stillbirths and improve maternal care.
On 26 March 2019, the Government launched a consultation on proposals to give coroners the power to investigate all full-term stillbirths . The impact of this would be massive. Not only would it provide parents with vital information on what went wrong and why, it would also ensure that any mistakes are identified to prevent future deaths.
We don’t know enough about why babies die. According to the SANDS website, 6 out of 10 stillbirths are unexplained. If we don’t know why babies die, we aren’t going to reduce our shocking statistics. Widening the Coroner’s powers would lead to more transparency for bereaved parents who are left desperately seeking answers as to why their seemingly healthy babies are stillborn.
According to the Government website, under the proposed system:
- Coroners will have powers to investigate all full-term stillbirths occurring from 37 weeks pregnancy
- The coroner will consider whether any lessons can be learned which could prevent future stillbirths
- Coroners will not have to gain consent or permission from any third party in exercising this power
- Coronial investigations will not replace current investigations undertaken by the hospital or NHS agencies
These measures are an important step towards delivering the government’s commitment to reduce the rate of stillbirths as outlined in Saving Babies’ Lives.
The consultation is running for 12 weeks until the 18 June 2019. To take part please see https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/coronial-investigations-of-stillbirths/
If you or a loved one would like to discuss a stillbirth compensation claim or neonatal death compensation claim, please do not hesitate to contact us.