The doctor with the most detailed knowledge of the circumstances of the death should report it.


Categories of death to be reported

The following deaths are examples of those that must be reported to the Procurator Fiscal (‘reportable deaths’).

For the full list please refer to the guidance on the COPFS website.

  • Suspicious deaths

  • Drug-related deaths (including deaths due to adverse drug reactions reportable under the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency Yellow Card Scheme)

  • Deaths in legal custody

  • Accidental deaths (including those resulting from falls)

  • Deaths resulting from an accident in the course of employment

  • Deaths of children from overlaying or suffocation

  • Deaths as a result of deliberate self harm

  • Any death from natural causes where the cause of death cannot be identified by a medical practitioner to the best of a doctor's knowledge and belief (certainty is not required)

  • Deaths as a result of neglect / fault

  • Deaths where the body of a newborn is found

  • Deaths that may be categorised as a Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI)

  • Any death of a child who is cared for by the local authority

  • Deaths from notifiable / infectious diseases

  • Deaths under medical care (the circumstances of which are the subject of concern or complaint, or may indicate fault or negligence, or are likely to be subject to an Adverse Event Review, or may indicate that failure of a piece of equipment may have caused or contributed to the death)

  • Any death not falling into any of the foregoing categories where the circumstances surrounding the death may cause public anxiety.

View further guidance on reporting deaths to the Procurator Fiscal


Common misconceptions

All deaths listed in the COFPS guidance must be reported.

The following circumstances are NOT reasons for rendering the death reportable:

  • That the death occurred within 24 hours (or any other timescale) of admission to hospital

  • That the death occurred within 24 hours (or any other timescale) of an operation

  • That the deceased, who had a terminal illness, died earlier than expected

  • That the deceased had not been seen by a GP for some time

  • That a Consultant has instructed that the death be reported without specifying the reasons why. A death certificate may be issued if a medical practitioner is able to identify a cause of death to the best of his or her knowledge and belief. Certainty is not required