NCIS News Autumn 2019

25 March 2019

Welcome to the new look National Coronial Information System newsletter.  We’ll be publishing NCIS news and updates here regularly. Find out about recent research, database updates, data set and quality developments, training, support and upcoming deadlines for access applications. Subscribe to our news.

NZ study raises concerns about zopiclone and clozapine

New research into poisoning related deaths in New Zealand shows a surprising number of deaths (62 in total) involved the prescription medicines zopiclone, a hypno-sedative drug used to treat insomnia, and clozapine, an antipsychotic drug.

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Otago and the Best Practice Advocacy Centre and it represents the largest study of poisoning related deaths in New Zealand. Researchers reviewed New Zealand’s poison-related death findings recorded in the National Coronial Information System over a 6-year period (2008–2013). The review identified 1402 poisoning related deaths. Pharmaceuticals accounted for 52% of deaths. Methadone was the leading pharmaceutical cause of fatality and the third most common cause overall, followed by morphine and codeine, with zopiclone and clozapine equally ranked as the sixth most common cause.

About half (50.6%) were found to be intentional, 39.2% unintentional and 10.3% were unknown. Although the highest number of intentional deaths was among people 40-50 years of age, an unexpected finding from this study was that the highest proportion of intentional deaths occurred in people aged over 80 years (70.8%).

This study is the largest published review of New Zealand coronial data on poisoning related deaths and provides data for comparison with both national and international studies. Deaths by poisoning in New Zealand, 2008-2013, was recently published in the journal Clinical Toxicology.

Poisoning-related fatalities are a significant public health issue in New Zealand and the coronial investigation is important if we are to increase our understanding of this problem” Dr John Fountain, University of Otago.

Work related fatalities latest report

Safe Work Australia has just released the 2017 report into Work-related traumatic injury fatalities. The report provides comprehensive information on work-related injury fatalities, drawing on a number of sources including workers’ compensation data, coronial information from the NCIS, notifiable fatalities and the media.

The report covers national statistics on fatalities resulting from an injury sustained in the course of a work activity (worker fatalities) and as a result of someone else’s work activity (bystander fatalities). Despite an overall decrease of 48% since 2007, tragically 190 workers and bystanders were fatally injured in 2017 and a significant proportion of those killed were male (93%).

A total of 56 labourers were killed, accounting for the largest proportion (29%), closely followed by 55 drivers and machine operators.  The most common known causes of death were vehicle collisions (32%), being hit by moving objects (18%) and falling from a height (15%). The majority of fatalities (72%) occurred in three industries:

  • transport, postal and warehousing (54)
  • agriculture, forestry and fishing (52)
  • construction (30)

New search guides

New database guides are available for general and topic based searching. Topics covered include how to search for: intentional self-harm; drug related deaths; drowning and water related incidents; indigenous origin and ethnicity; and transport related deaths.

We are committed to helping researchers and death investigators to return comprehensive search results from the NCIS database by providing support including personalised training to all users.

To arrange a training session or discuss your needs, contact us at

ICD coding

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is the international standard used to classify the disease, morbid conditions or injuries which cause or contribute to death. The classification is published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to enable the comparability of statistics over time and across countries.

ICD-10 Cause of Death codes are included in the NCIS data set to enable research into the causes of death. The codes are assigned by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the New Zealand Ministry of Health (MoH). The NCIS does not quality assure ICD-10 coding. The codes are integrated into the database as assigned by the ABS and MoH.

Australian ICD-10 coding is available for 2000-2017 cases in the NCIS. The coding is prepared by the ABS and provided annually via the Australian Coordinating Registry (ACR) in accordance with the annual ABS Causes of Death release. New Zealand ICD-10-AM (Australian Modification) coding is available for 2007-2016 cases.  The coding is prepared by the New Zealand Ministry of Health and provided to the NCIS periodically throughout the year.

Rates of coverage for NCIS cases which have at least one allocated ICD-10 (ICD-10-AM for NZ) code are available on the website.

Research publications

There are almost 100 active research projects approved for access to NCIS coronial data in 2019 and academic publications are produced every year as a result of these research activities. Publications and reports are listed on the NCIS website, dating from 2013.

Publications are listed by general topic area. The largest proportion of research is carried out into suicide and intentional self-harm, followed by research into drug and alcohol related fatalities and drowning/water related fatalities. Other areas of research focus include aged care and nursing home residents and farm related fatalities.

If you have published research, using NCIS data, that is not listed on our website, let us know and we’ll add details of your publication.

Closing date for applications

The next closing date for new and renewing applications is 8 May 2019. Applications received by this date will be considered at the Justice Human Research Ethics Committee (JHREC) meeting on 27 June 2019. Applications for Victorian data must be reviewed by the Coroners Court of Victoria in advance, contact NCIS for details.

Visit the website for more information and application guidelines or contact us at


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