Decision-making in a death investigation: Emotion, families and the coroner

Article


Tait, Gordon, Carpenter, Belinda, Quadrelli, Carol and Barnes, Michael. 2016. "Decision-making in a death investigation: Emotion, families and the coroner." Journal of Law and Medicine. 23 (3), pp. 571-581.
Article Title

Decision-making in a death investigation: Emotion, families and the coroner

ERA Journal ID33514
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsTait, Gordon (Author), Carpenter, Belinda (Author), Quadrelli, Carol (Author) and Barnes, Michael (Author)
Journal TitleJournal of Law and Medicine
Journal Citation23 (3), pp. 571-581
Number of Pages11
Year2016
PublisherLawbook Co.
Place of PublicationAustralia
ISSN1320-159X
Web Address (URL)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27323635/
Abstract

The role of the coroner in common law countries such as Australia, England, Canada and New Zealand is to preside over death investigations where there is uncertainty as to the manner of death, a need to identify the deceased, a death of unknown cause, or a violent or unnatural death. The vast majority of these deaths are not suspicious and thus require coroners to engage with grieving families who have been thrust into a legal process through the misfortune of a loved one's sudden or unexpected death. In this research, 10 experienced coroners discussed how they negotiated the grief and trauma evident in a death investigation. In doing so, they articulated two distinct ways in which legal officers engaged with emotions, which are also evident in the literature. The first engages the script of judicial dispassion, articulating a hierarchical relationship between reason and emotion, while the second introduces an ethic of care via the principles of therapeutic jurisprudence, and thus offers a challenge to the role of emotion in the personae of the professional judicial officer. By using Hochschild's work on the sociology of emotions, this article discusses the various ways in which coroners manage the emotion of a death investigation through emotion work. While emotional distance may be an understandable response by coroners to the grief and trauma experienced by families and directed at cleaner coronial decision-making, the article concludes that coroners may be better served by offering emotions such as sympathy, consideration and compassion directly to the family in those situations where families are struggling to accept, or are resistant to, coroners' decisions.

KeywordsCoronial practice, Emotions, Family, Judicial decision making
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020480504. Legal institutions (incl. courts and justice systems)
Public Notes

File reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher/author.

Byline AffiliationsQueensland University of Technology
Chief Coroner, New South Wales, Australia
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Funding source
Australian Research Council (ARC)
Grant ID
http://purl.org/au-research/grants/arc/LP100200393
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https://research.usq.edu.au/item/q78x6/decision-making-in-a-death-investigation-emotion-families-and-the-coroner

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