The Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction): The idea of changing Colorado law to make autopsy reports on minors unavailable to the public is rooted in human decency.
Who among us doesn’t sympathize with the parents of children who die? A bill moving quickly through the Legislature aims to end the practice of making all autopsy reports public in the name of protecting the privacy of families that have suffered the loss of a child.
It’s a bad idea for two reasons: The first is simple accountability. Taxpayers fund the Mesa County Coroner’s Office to the tune of $465,000 a year. Every report the coroner’s office issues is essentially an expensive public record. How can we be assured coroners are doing their jobs correctly and within the parameters of the law if we can’t see their work product?
Decency lies at the heart of the other reason. Autopsies on children are often the only way to know if they’ve been abused or if abuse caused their deaths. Colorado media outlets have relied on autopsies to expose instances when children have fallen through the cracks of the child welfare system.
Closing the door on public access to these reports in the name of decency makes it more difficult to get justice for abuse victims. There’s nothing decent about that.
Proponents of Senate Bill 223, sponsored by Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, will argue that law enforcement officials will still have access to autopsy reports so that they can decide when criminal charges should apply in a minor’s death.
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