had since retired. While Annemarie’s death might have looked natural, there was no way the attending doctor was going to sign her death certificate.
The lack of a recent doctor’s visit and, more importantly, the lack of a known cause of death (at least prior to any autopsy being performed) meant that the police had to be involved. On this occasion, the involvement of the authorities led to Suzy Austen being charged with assisting in Annemarie Treadwell’s suicide.
All other things being equal, Suzy may not have found herself charged had Annemarie visited her doctor complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath in the weeks before she died. After all, at 77, she was no ‘spring chicken’.
What if the Death does not look Natural?
If the doctor suspects that the death is not natural (eg. if the death is possibly a suicide or if the cause of death is unclear) the doctor will certify death, but he/she will not sign the death certificate. In this case, the doctor will likely notify the police and the Coroner’s office. This is not necessarily a cause for alarm especially if a suicide note has been left by the deceased and the cause of death obvious (eg. if the bottle of Nembutal is by the bedside).
If there is a well-written suicide note, the police may do no more than question those present about their relationship with the deceased. This questioning may be either informal at the home or more formal and ‘under caution’ at the police station. Questionning will seek to confirm that those present played no role in the person’s death. In this situation, a suicide note may help make a death less suspicious. However, caution is still required.