Supporting a family's cultural and spiritual needs

The immediate family of the person who has died may have some cultural and spiritual needs that they would like respected during the coronial process.

They may feel a post mortem is not acceptable and decide to object to having one done, or they may want to know exactly how a body is being respected or cared for during the coronial process. It can be extremely distressing when the practices that a family, whānau, or their cultural and faith leaders would normally do for someone who has died cannot be done immediately. Coronial Services tries to make sure that such needs can be met.

As a member of the immediate family you’re welcome to contact your coronial case manager at any time to discuss any cultural and spiritual need that you’d like considered during the post mortem or inquiry stages of the process. In some circumstances, you can ask your coronial case manager if you can talk to the coroner directly.

If you want to object to the post-mortem or ask that it's done in a particular cultural way
The coroner recognises that immediate family and their whānau may have personal concerns about a post mortem.The only exception is if it is suspected that the death is suspicious in any way, such as caused by a crime. In this instance, a post-mortem cannot be objected to.

If you do want to object or make a cultural request, you must do this as soon as possible, within 24 hours. As a member of the immediate family and whānau, you can tell the coroner if you don’t want a post mortem or want certain cultural needs to be considered by the coroner. Tell the duty coroner’s office immediately by phoning 0800 266 800 and tell the police officer in charge of the investigation. The coroner will decide if they can grant your cultural request or not.

If the coroner doesn’t agree to your request, you will have 48 hours to appeal their decision to the High Court. Speak immediately with the coroner’s office or to a lawyer about the steps you will need to take.

For more information on objecting to a post-mortem, see pages 6-8 of Ministry of Justice publication, When Someone Dies Suddenly, or call us on 0800 842 846 (24/7) to be connected with a Support Worker.

Other useful websites and information

When Someone Dies Suddenly. A guide to coronial services in New Zealand.

A family’s rights during the coronial process


Your rights as a victim