Charles Rotsztein v HM Senior Coroner for Inner London

The case of Charles Rotsztein v HM Senior Coroner for Inner London before Mr Justice Mitting was heard at the Administrative Court yesterday when the application was allowed. The issue was the balance to be struck between the duty of a coroner to properly ascertain the cause of death and a family’s desire for the deceased’s body to remain intact, for religious reasons.

Following the death of 86 year old Sarlotta Rotsztein who died on September 29th 2014 at the Royal Free Hospital,her relatives sought an ex- parte injunction to prevent a full post mortem after Mary Hassell,the Inner London Coroner refused a body scan for which they were willing to pay.Her decision was taken against a background of differing medical opinions on the cause of death.Mr Justice Leggatt had granted an injunction prohibiting an invasive post mortem until attempts were made to determine the cause of death by a non or minimally invasive post mortem-and a CT scan was performed at the John Radcliffe Hospital,where Professor Roberts,in his opinion, identified a clear cause of death.

In January 2015,Mr Justice Silber gave the family permission to bring a test case against the coroner, which challenged the lawfulness of her approach to directing invasive autopsies when there was  a possibility that non- invasive investigations such as CT scans might be more appropriate, when the family of the deceased had expressed religious objections to an invasive autopsy.

The decision is of importance as it is a question which has previously arisen and there have been earlier judicial review proceedings to prevent the coroner proceeding with an invasive post mortem without first attempting less invasive methods R Goldstein v HM Coroner for Inner North London[2014] EWHC3889

In which Mr Justice Mitting and HHJ Thornton QC upheld an interim injunction granted by Mr Justice Globe which required a step by step approach.