I congratulate Tim Loughton on his success in getting the Bill through the House. I will focus on the registration of stillbirths because parents and coroners have asked me to support that aspect of the legislation. As the law stands, coroners have no jurisdiction to investigate stillbirths that occur after 36 weeks, which is generally regarded as full term. Coroners can hold an inquest in cases where it is appropriate, particularly when either the family or medical staff are critical of the level of care, but all deaths after 36 weeks should be examined.
As it stands, the system for reporting and investigating deaths is inconsistent, and that matters because the UK has one of the worst stillbirth rates in the developed world, with one stillbirth in every 200 babies born. The grief and sorrow that the parents go through at the loss of the child is unimaginable, and we all recognise that a bereaved parent may not feel that they can face the extra intrusion of a coroner’s inquest. That may not be appropriate and, of course, the decision must still be one for the parents, but an investigation is the only way to understand the circumstances of prenatal deaths so that recommendations can be made to improve future outcomes.