Does Sealing Child Autopsy Reports Protect Family Privacy Or Hide Important Facts?

May 14, 2018

If a child dies, does the public have the right to know why?

The state legislature tackled that question with a bill that would seal autopsy reports of children's deaths unless journalists obtained a judge’s order to release the records. The momentum for the proposed law began after a rash of teen suicides in El Paso County. When the Colorado Springs Independent tried to investigate, the county coroner took a stand.

Supporters of the bill cite family privacy and the concern that making details of suicides public could cause copycats. Opponents, including Denver media attorney Steve Zansberg, counter that sealing the records could prevent full disclosure of child abuse by families or government agencies who are responsible for the children. 

Lawmakers approved the bill earlier this month. Zansberg, who heads the Colorado Freedom of Information Council, said the council will join other media groups in urging Gov. John Hickenlooper to veto the measure.

Zansberg sometimes represents CPR through the Colorado Broadcasters Association.