Factors influencing coroners' verdicts: An analysis of verdicts given in 12 coroners' districts to researcher-defined suicides in England in 2005

Bret S. Palmer*, Olive Bennewith, Sue Simkin, Jayne Cooper, Keith Hawton, Nav Kapur, David Gunnell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background To investigate the variation between coroners in the verdicts given to deaths thought by researchers to be probable suicides and analyse factors associated with the coroners' verdict. Methods Data were collected from 12 English coroner districts on all deaths in 2005 given a suicide, open, accidental or narrative verdict where suicide was considered a possibility. The data were reviewed by three experienced suicide researchers. Regression models were used to investigate factors associated with the coroners' verdict. Results The researchers classified 593 deaths as suicide, of which 385 (65.4%) received a suicide verdict from the coroner. There was marked variation between coroner districts in the verdicts they gave. The suicide method was associated strongly with the coroners' verdict; deaths from poisoning and drowning were the least likely to be given suicide verdicts. The other factors strongly associated with a coroner's verdict of suicide were: whether a note was left, age over 60 years and being married or widowed compared with being single. Conclusion Coroners vary considerably in the verdicts they give to individuals who probably died by suicide. This may compromise the usefulness of suicide statistics for assessing area differences in rates for public health surveillance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-165
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Public Health (United Kingdom)
Volume37
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015

Keywords

  • cause of death
  • classification methods
  • coroner's verdicts
  • mortality
  • risk factors
  • suicide

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