§ Mr. Gourlay
asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland what criteria are used by the Fife procurators fiscal in determining the need for a post mortem examination; who decides which pathologist in any hospital undertakes the examinations; and what fee is paid for such examinations in addition to the consultant's National Health Service salary.
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland
The criteria which are used by procurators fiscal in Fife in determining the need for an autopsy are the same as the criteria used by procurators fiscal throughout Scotland.
It is the duty of the procurator fiscal to investigate all sudden, violent, suspicious, accidental or unexplained deaths which are made known to him. The object of his investigation is to establish whether or not there has been any criminality or possible negligence involved in a death. The procurator fiscal has, however, also to keep in mind whether or not the death has resulted from an accident in the course of employment; while the deceased was in legal custody; or in circumstances such as to give rise to serious public concern.
An autopsy is necessary in all cases in which it may be necessary to prove the fact and cause of death: either because there is a possibility that the death was caused or contributed to by the commission of a criminal act or for some other reason arising out of the foregoing duties. In other cases an autopsy is necessary where a medical practitioner is unable to certify the cause of death.
The procurator fiscal is responsible for deciding which pathologist is to be asked to conduct the autopsy using his judgment in all the circumstances of each case.
The sum payable to a pathologist for conducting an autopsy is prescribed in terms of a national scale of fees. The fee to all pathologists for an autopsy is presently £19.90. The Scottish Law Officers are, however, empowered to authorise a special fee in cases of special complexity.