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New rules around reporting suicides

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 16/06/2016

Media will be able to report a death as a suspected suicide under a law change that's just been passed by parliament.

The Coroners Amendment Bill carries a raft of changes around coronial processes and also deals with the reporting of suicides.

During debate on its final stage on Thursday, Justice Minister Amy Adams said New Zealand had tragically high rates of suicide and also had unique restrictions on the publication of details of those deaths.

"The bill clarifies and eases current restrictions by focusing on preventing the reporting of details that are most likely to stir up copycat behaviour, being the method or anything that implies it," she said.

"Media will, however, no longer need to use euphemisms such as `no suspicious circumstances'. They will be able to describe a suspected suicide as such, if the facts support it, before the coroner has made any findings."

The bill makes changes to coronial processes which Ms Adams said would make them more efficient and responsive to grieving families.

Inquests and inquiries will go ahead without delay and bodies will be returned to families as soon as possible.

There are new rules around the reporting of deaths to coroners.

"Around 5700 deaths are reported to coroners every year, and coroners accept jurisdiction in around 3200 of those deaths," Ms Adams said.

"This tells us there is a degree of unnecessary reporting, and uncertainty about reporting obligations."

The bill also allows preliminary inspections of bodies using medical imaging technology to ensure unnecessary post-mortems are avoided.

The bill on Thursday passed its third reading by 88 votes to 32.

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