• coroners;
  • death investigation;
  • managerialism;
  • public engagement;
  • public safety


This paper demonstrates how general trends in the management of public institutions, and a specific turf war between the doctors and lawyers in Ontario, Canada, have combined to shape an important risk regulatory decisionmaking process: the coroner's inquest. Drawing on ethnographic evidence, I show how the priorities of managerialism, and the collateral effects of physician coroners battling with lawyers, have reduced the number of public inquests convened in Ontario by 80 per cent over a 20-year period. Where many public safety decisions affecting the province's legal, policy, and physical environments were once made at public inquests, they appear now more likely to be made in private. The paper examines the implications of reduced public participation in the analysis of, and response to, death.