232. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of post-mortems, specifically those that entailed a subsequent inquest, carried out at the mortuary in University Hospital Waterford on an annual basis since 2010; his views on whether the decision of 7 May 2019 by the State Pathologist not to use the facility has implications for findings made by these inquests; the way in which he has come to this view; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20722/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The number of post-mortem examinations, on an annual basis since 2010, carried out in the mortuary in Waterford University Hospital, directed by the Coroners in Kilkenny, Tipperary South, Waterford, Carlow and Wexford which resulted in a subsequent inquest, is shown in the following table.
These post mortems are comprised of two types of post mortems. Firstly, there are those post mortems carried out by hospital pathologists where the coroner is seeking to determine the exact cause of death, where suspicious circumstances do not arise. Secondly, there are forensic post mortems by the Office of the State Pathologist in ‘State cases’ where a suspicious death may have occurred.
The finding of any inquest as to the cause of a death, involving evidence from the Office of the State Pathologist, is a matter for the Coroner to determine. As Minister, I have no role in the matter.
Where forensic post mortems in State cases are carried out, the State pathologists use the existing mortuary facilities in the hospital concerned. This hospital is usually in the region where the death occurred and in agreement with the coroner for that region. For cases in the Dublin region, the Dublin City Mortuary, which is under the managerial control of the Dublin Coroner, is the facility usually used.
Hospital mortuaries are a matter for the HSE. The Office of the State Pathologist, which is operationally independent of me as Minister, advise that where a mortuary is deemed “unfit for purpose” by the relevant authorities, it would be imprudent to perform a state forensic post-mortem there until it reaches the required standard. In such a circumstance, State forensic post-mortems would be performed in another suitable facility.