Directive issued in COVID-19 related deaths reportable to Coroner


Coroner and District Judge, Alalatoa Rosella Papalii has issued a directive as guidelines for Doctors and Police to assist them in identifying COVID-19 related deaths that are reportable to the Coroner.

The directive issued last week and obtained by Radio Polynesia was addressed to the Director-General and all Doctors at the Ministry of Health as well as the Ministry of Police and Prisons.

Issued with the approval of the Chief Justice his Honor Satiu Simativa Perese, the directive comes, in light of the rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic with deaths in the Country. As of Monday, the Ministry of Health confirmed nine COVID related deaths.

Judge Papalii cited the practised used by other Commonwealth Countries like New Zealand Austral and the United Kingdom where suspected deaths from Covid qualify as a “natural cause of death”.

“This is mainly because the probable cause of death is known and doctors can issue the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death.”

The Coroner noted, “where the cause of death is unclear  or where there are other relevant contributing factors to the death, or where a doctor does not sign the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death for whatever reason the death must be reported to the Coroner.”

Adding that given the “overwhelming health and safety concerns regarding infectious dead bodies, if there is such a death that falls under any of the categories [stipulated] doctor must immediately inform Police and complete the coroner forms for reporting to the Coroner.

“Doctors are also reminded of their obligation under section 48 of the Births, Deaths and Marriage Registration Act 2002 when reporting the death.”

Judge Papalii said the Coroner’s form must be accompanied by a full medical report clearly canvassing the medical history of the person, clinical prognosis and tests, scans, treatment and medication received or not received circumstances of death, the suspected cause of death and an explanation for this finding and any other relevant information.

The report must clearly state if a post mortem is required and the reasons for such recommendations.”

The Judge also noted there is nothing stopping the Police from continuing with discharging their lawful function of investigating COVID-19 deaths they deem to arise from suspicious circumstances and bring it to the attention of the Coroner within 48 hours from their time of death.

Copied in the directive are the Chief Justice, Court Registrar Moliei Simi Vaai, Attorney General Su’a Hellene Wallwork-Lamb and Acting Registrar of the Samoa Bureau of Statistics.