Respected Health Law Lawyers Representing Clients at Coroner’s Investigations and Coroner’s Inquests
The Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario serves an important public interest, and health professionals and organizations have certain duties and obligations to cooperate and report. Given the nature of their investigations, inquiries from the Coroner often come at a stressful time for individuals and organizations. Although Coroner’s investigations are not adversarial in nature, in some circumstances an adversarial process (e.g. a civil proceeding) is being contemplated by the family of the deceased. Experienced legal counsel can provide confidential advice, and assist health professionals and organizations to understand their rights, risks and obligations.
Sometimes, instead of just a Coroner’s investigation, a formal Coroner’s Inquest is convened. A Coroner’s Inquest is a formal investigation of a death and a subsequent public hearing, both conducted by a Coroner. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the death in question, some inquests are mandatory while others are discretionary:
- Mandatory inquests are conducted pursuant to the legislative requirements under the Coroner’s Act. Mandatory inquests occur, for example, if a psychiatric patient dies while being physically restrained or detained at a psychiatric facility or hospital or if a person dies while in custody;
- Discretionary inquests may be conducted where a Coroner determines that it would be in the public interest to do so, typically where examination of systemic issues could advance public safety.
At Wise Health Law, our team of lawyers is dedicated solely to health law and administrative law issues and has significant experience representing clients at both Coroner’s Inquests and related investigations. We combine our substantial knowledge in health law with our exceptional advocacy skills to provide skilful guidance to clients who retain us to assist them throughout the inquest or investigation process.
The Inquest Process
Coroner’s Inquests involve a jury who must decide on five questions:
- Who was the deceased?
- Where did the death occur?
- When did the death occur?
- How did the death occur (i.e. what was the medical cause of the death)?
- By what means did the death occur? (i.e. natural causes, accident, homicide, suicide, or undetermined).
A Coroner’s Inquest is not intended to be an adversarial process or trial. Rather, as the name suggests, it is an inquisitorial process intended to focus the public’s attention on the circumstances surrounding a death. Ultimately, the jury can make recommendations to prevent similar situations going forward, and each inquest produces a large quantity of publicly available information about a person’s death.
How We Help
A Coroner’s Inquest is a specialized proceeding, with several features unique to the inquest process. Inquests have their own rules of procedure that are different from those in criminal or civil courts. Adherence to these rules is expected of all parties.
Although a Coroner’s inquest is not intended to be an adversarial process, in some circumstances, an adversarial process (e.g. a civil proceeding) is being contemplated by the family of the deceased. Health professionals or organizations may want to seek formal standing at the inquest so as to be able to participate in the inquest and, ultimately, receive and respond to any recommendations by the Coroner’s jury. To do so, they should seek legal representation from counsel with specific experience participating at Coroner’s Inquests, like the lawyers at Wise Health Law.
A lawyer can also advise health professionals with respect to providing evidence at an inquest while keeping an eye to protecting their interests in any resulting litigation that may be contemplated.
If you are participating in an inquest, it is advisable to retain legal counsel with specific experience with these matters. At Wise Health Law, we have a deep and thorough understanding of the inquest process and the rules that govern it, and have represented many clients at both inquests and related investigations.
For Expert Representation at Coroner’s Inquests and Investigations Contact Wise Health Law
If you require a lawyer to provide guidance during a Coroner’s investigation or to represent you at a Coroner’s Inquest, contact the experienced lawyers at Wise Health Law. Our team of health lawyers relies on more than 30 years of combined advocacy and health law experience to provide clients with exceptional representation. With offices in both Toronto and Oakville, Ontario we are easily accessible. Contact us online, or at 416-915-4234 for a consultation.