As bill heads to governor’s desk, clash continues over restricting access to kids’ autopsy records

KUNC (Greeley): An unexpected bipartisan moment at Colorado’s Capitol came courtesy of a little-known bill late in the session. Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate overwhelmingly voted for legislation to restrict the public’s access to the autopsy records of children. The bill, which is now on Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk, has sparked ongoing debate between advocates for the privacy of grieving families and advocates for the public’s interest in children’s deaths.

Under Senate Bill 223, coroners across the state won’t have to release those autopsy records to the public, as they do now. Rather, the records would be released only to parents and guardians, as well as to others with an interest, like criminal investigators or lawyers in specific cases.

Rep. Matt Gray, a Boulder area Democrat and one of the bill’s main sponsors, told members of the House Judiciary Committee during a hearing earlier this month that autopsies contain highly descriptive language with details that can surface in media, causing more pain to families as they mourn a child.

“That is information, if you think about that from a parent’s perspective, that doesn’t need to be subject of internet fodder or anything along those lines,” Gray told fellow lawmakers. “It’s not information that any person who walks down the street should have access to.”

Yet if the bill becomes law, even some family members, like grandparents, would not be granted immediate access to the documents unless the parents or guardians share it with them.

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