The Chief Coroner for England and Wales has issued guidance that inquests into coronavirus deaths among NHS workers should avoid examining whether or not systematic failures to provide adequate and suitable personal protective equipment was a factor in that person’s death.
This is a worrying announcement. A coroner is an independent judicial officer, appointed and paid for by local authorities, whose role is to investigate violent, unnatural or sudden deaths of unknown cause. It is accepted that a coroner is not there to apportion blame when a person has died, that is the role of a court, but the provision of suitable protective equipment must be a factor to be considered by the coroner when reaching his decision on what caused or contributed to the death.
Families deserve to know what caused the death of their loved-ones. The announcement from the Chief Coroner that an inquest is not the correct place to investigate whether or not PPE was a factor in their death simply forces them down the route of testing the point in a civil court.
I anticipate when the lockdown is over, many families will be left having to pursue a civil action to find the answers to their many questions about why their loved ones were never given the appropriate PPE.