Coroner's inquest and mesothelioma

When a person with mesothelioma dies, the doctor who signs the death certificate must inform the coroner, and an inquest has to take place.

What is a coroner?

A coroner is a doctor or lawyer who investigates unexpected or unnatural deaths.

What is a coroner's inquest?

There may come a time when treatments are no longer working for your family member or friend, and you have to prepare for their death. When a person with mesothelioma dies, the doctor must inform the coroner (the procurator fiscal in Scotland).

The coroner will carry out an inquest. This is a legal investigation into the circumstances surrounding a person’s death.

Why is an inquest needed?

An inquest is needed because, in the UK, mesothelioma is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos dust. Death due to mesothelioma is not considered a natural death.

Will the inquest delay a funeral?

An inquest does not usually cause any delay before your loved one’s funeral can happen. The coroner will issue a temporary death certificate in most cases. This is because a full certificate cannot be issued until after the inquest is completed. This may take a few months.

Will a post mortem be needed?

The coroner will decide if a post-mortem (an examination of the body) is needed. A post-mortem tries to find out if the death was due to mesothelioma or another cause.

In many situations, a post-mortem is not needed if there is enough medical evidence to confirm the person had mesothelioma. This evidence may come from samples (biopsies) that were taken when the person was first diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Existing compensation claims

If your family member or friend was making (or had already made) a compensation claim, the coroner should be told and given the solicitors details. The solicitor should also be told about the death soon after the person dies. In most cases, the solicitor can advise and deal with the coroner on behalf of the family.

If a solicitor has been instructed to make a compensation claim, you should speak to them before making any decisions about:

  • the inquest
  • a post-mortem
  • tissue samples.

Any decisions about these things may affect the claim, so always speak to the solicitor first.

Need support?

Dealing with these issues as well as the death of your loved one can be upsetting. You may want to get support from your GP, specialist nurse, or a support organisation. You can call our support line free on 0808 808 00 00.

We also have information on coping with bereavement.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our mesothelioma information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    Woolhouse I et al. British Thoracic Society Guideline for the investigation and management of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Thorax. 2018.

    Thomas A et al. Mesothelioma. BMJ Best Practice. 2019.

    Baas P et al. Malignant pleural mesothelioma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up.  Annals of Oncology. 26 (Supplement 5): v31–v39. 2015. Available from: www.pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26223247

    Kusamara S et al. Peritoneal mesothelioma: PSOGI/EURACAN clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. European Journal of Surgical Oncology. March 2020.


  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr David Gilligan, Consultant Clinical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.