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  • Cautionary Tale

    Cautionary Tale

     

    Considerations for preparing a statement for the coroner

    A police officer visits your practice requesting a statement from you regarding the recent death of one of your patients. You are informed that your patient appears to have committed suicide as he was found dead in his backyard swimming pool with an empty bottle of Xanax tablets and an empty bottle of whisky nearby. As the patient’s treating psychiatrist, you are asked to provide a statement to the coroner outlining your treatment and opinion.

    Should you provide the statement to the police?

    As you have done nothing wrong and you have provided a high standard of care to your patient, you may feel that there is no reason to seek any assistance in these circumstances. However, here are some reasons why you should seek Avant’s early assistance:

    Protecting your interests in a challenging situation

    Considerations you may not yet be aware of include:

    • The importance of protecting your personal and professional reputation
    • The matter is likely to result in a coronial inquest and you are likely to be called to give evidence
    • The coroner can refer doctors to regulators such as AHPRA, the HCCC, the Health Ombudsman and the Medical Board or even the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), if concern is raised with respect to treatment. Your statement can potentially be used against you in these jurisdictions
    • As a witness you may be legally represented, and in our experience this is important

     

    Preventing further issues arising

    At the early stage in the investigation, it is difficult to know whether you need legal assistance because you may:

    • not be aware of what the issues are or are going to become
    • lack some of the relevant information including the autopsy report, toxicology report, potential expert reports, other treatment records and statements which have been or will be obtained by the police
    • be called as a factual witness and not an independent expert

     

    Supporting you all the way

    Avant can advise and support you during the entire process relieving the pressure by:

    • becoming the contact point for the police and the coroner’s office
    • ensuring you have all the available material to assist drafting your statement
    • assisting and advising you to draft your statement
    • reviewing your statement from a medical and legal perspective

     

    Scenario stage two: the autopsy findings

    As it turns out, the autopsy determined the cause of death in the case above to be homicide from asphyxiation and suicide as initially suspected. As a result, the coroner referred the matter to the DPP and unknown to you, your statement will now be used as evidence in a criminal trial.