39.42 Each Australian State and Territory has legislation governing the powers and duties of the coroner. Generally, the coroner’s role is to investigate the circumstances surrounding ‘reportable deaths’ by providing a written finding to establish the deceased’s identity; the circumstances surrounding the death; the cause of death; and the particulars needed to register the death.
39.43 For example, in New South Wales the coroner may order that a post-mortem examination be conducted on a deceased person who has died a reportable death.It may be necessary for the pathologist to retain tissue obtained during the autopsy for further testing and examination. In addition, a coroner’s order for a post-mortem examination is sufficient authority for the use of tissue removed from the deceased’s body for therapeutic, medical and scientific purposes.
Access to newborn screening cards
39.44 Chapter 19 of this Report discusses Australia’s various regulatory frameworks for collecting, storing, accessing and destroying newborn screening cards (often referred to as ‘Guthrie cards’), including access for law enforcement purposes.
39.45 Recommendation 19–1 provides that the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council, in consultation with the state and territory Attorney-General’s Departments and police services, should develop nationally consistent rules governing disclosure, for law enforcement purposes, of newborn screening cards, pathology samples, banked tissue and other genetic samples.
 The definition of a ‘reportable death’ varies in each jurisdiction, but generally includes circumstances where the person died unexpectedly and the cause of death is unknown; the person died in a violent or unnatural manner; the person died during or as a result of an anaesthetic; the person was ‘held in care’ or in custody immediately before they died; a doctor has been unable to sign a death certificate giving the cause of death; or the identity of the person who has died is unknown: Monash University National Centre for Coronial Information, National Coroners Information System: Coronial Process, Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, <www.vifp.monash.edu.au/ncis/Background/australi.htm>, 1 March 2003.
Coroners Act 1980 (NSW) ss 48, 49.
Human Tissue Act 1983 (NSW) s 31(3). See also Monash University National Centre for Coronial Information, National Coroners Information System: Coronial Process, Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, <www.vifp.monash.edu.au/ncis/Background/australi.htm>, 1 March 2003.
 See [19.14].