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Public disclosure of autopsy findings

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Lately there have been disclosure announcements as to the results of celebrity autopsy reports. At what point does this become a HIPAA violation if it is not a criminal investigation?

For example, the Billy Mays press release. The family indicated that they were not in agreement with the release of information. What is the medical examiner’s liability in the disclosure of a patient’s autopsy records?

Deborah DeLeo, CHC, CPC
Executive Director of Operations
TreeFrog Data Solutions

Categories : HIPAA Talk


  1. Frank Ruelas says:


    As you are undoubtedly experiencing, the release of and the content of released autopsy reports is driven significantly by those rules and regulations within State statutes related to the Medical Examiner. Often there is case history that supports the release of autopsy reports (example below). However, don’t discount that based on the specifics of the Medical Examiner’s case, there can be some content that remains undisclosed for a number of reasons. (such as photographs of the victim)

    “In Star Publishing Co. v. Parks, 178 Ariz. 604, 875 P.2d 837, 838 (Ct. App. 1993), the court held that “autopsy reports are public records under A.R.S. ยงยง 11-594 and 597″ and that the County Forensic Center cannot hold up disclosure pending notification of relatives, unless it can point to “specific risks with respect to a specific disclosure.”


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