BBC News. Cara Rocks inquest: Stillbirth case ‘helped to save lives’. 2016. (accessed 20 September 2016)

Sands. Sands' position statement: Coroners' inquests into stillbirths. 2016. (accessed 20 September 2016)

Investigating stillbirths

02 October 2016
Volume 24 · Issue 10


Sophie Windsor considers whether a recent case involving the first inquest into the birth of a stillborn baby in Northern Ireland could extend UK coronial law to investigate stillbirths.

September 2016 saw the first ever stillbirth inquest in Northern Ireland (BBC News, 2016). Ever since Cara Rocks was stillborn in 2013, her parents have been seeking answers surrounding her death. During the inquest, the coroner said that lessons had been learnt by the hospital and that care had improved at the maternity unit. The coroner also praised the parents for seeking answers regarding their daughter's death.

There have been cases in the UK where coroners have investigated perinatal deaths, usually at the request of the parents following inadequate local investigations (Sands, 2016). These cases usually come about when there have been ‘signs of life’ present at birth, and are not classified by UK law as stillbirths, but neonatal deaths. The definition of a stillbirth in England and Wales is contained in the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 section 41, as amended by the Stillbirth (Definition) Act 1992 section 1(1), and is as follows:

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