Referral to procurator fiscal and post mortems

If a person dies suddenly and unexpectedly, or the cause of death is unclear, the GP or hospital doctor may be unable to issue a death certificate. In these instances the Procurator Fiscal’s Office will be informed. For certain types of death (such as industrial accidents or suicide) this is a legal requirement.

The Procurator Fiscal may decide that a post mortem is necessary. The aim of a post mortem is to determine the cause of death. Arrangements to conduct the post mortem will be made as soon as possible. Please see the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service website for more information.

The death certificate is issued when the cause of death has been established. The body of the person who has died can then released to the family or next of kin.

The investigation into the cause of death and a post mortem (if required) will be carried out as soon as possible. It is important to inform the Procurator Fiscal of any cultural, religious or other objections to a post mortem as soon as possible.

There may be legal reasons why a post mortem is unavoidable. Where possible the Procurator Fiscal will respect the wishes of the next of kin. The involvement of the Procurator Fiscal can be common and does not imply that the death was suspicious.

Further information on post mortems is available on the NHS website.


For further information you can contact the Procurator Fiscal's Office: