By Denise Pedrow
California Assembly member Jacqui Irwin has authored a new bill, AB268. This bill will add Section 27523 to the Government Code and change what the county medical examiner’s office must allow to be revealed to the public. The bill will “prohibit the disclosure of any report of death, autopsy report, investigation summary, toxicology report, coroner’s register, file or other record, working paper, or note relating to a postmortem examination or autopsy of a decedent”.
This bill, titled “An act to add Section 27523 to the Government Code, relating to privacy” would create a state-mandated program that would only allow autopsy information to be released to the decedent’s next of kin, personal representative, parent, child, grandparents, grandchild, sibling, spouse or domestic partner, and others, if certain evidence of identity is provided. Irwin states her reason for changing existing California law in the text of the bill. She writes, “Protecting the confidentiality of a decedent’s autopsy records will help decedent’s families avoid additional trauma and privacy violations.” While Irwin’s bill may help keep some decedent’s family members protected from vague types of future trauma, it certainly will destroy public perception of transparent county and state agencies.
Since 1953, The Brown Act has protected the right of the public to be informed of vital information from our public agencies. Changing the availability of death notifications and autopsy reports during a major pandemic certainly is a cause for concern. The statistics from the county health officers has been… fluid to say the least, when it comes to reporting what deaths were caused directly from the COVID-19 virus and what deaths occurred while the virus was merely present within a decedent’s system.
The Brown Act was introduced because politicians, state and county agencies were discovered having secret meetings and study sessions to deliberate on subjects that were of high importance to the public. The Brown Act protects the rights of the public and states that “…the people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”
In 2020, the people of California lost many of their constitutional freedoms; the right to work, the right to gather in groups, the right to worship in church, the right to have our children attend in-person school. The California legislature then voted to hand over to our Governor unprecedented power. Under Governor Newsom’s Emergency and Executive Orders, the will and rights of the people are continually being silenced and pushed aside.
Assembly member Irwin’s bill, AB268 is the ominous next step in keeping Californian’s uninformed and without access to critical information.
Denise Pedrow is a local business woman and former Assembly candidate.