Posted on Dec 31, 1991 in Formal Opinions

Opinion Letter No. 91-32
December 31, 1991
Autopsy Reports

The OIP, based upon previous OIP advisory opinions that established that the right to privacy is a personal right that is generally extinguished upon an individual’s death, determined that, under the UIPA, deceased individuals do not have a recognizable privacy interest in their autopsy reports. However, if an autopsy report mentions a living individual, disclosure of that report, under the UIPA, will depend upon a balancing of the privacy interests of that living individual against the public interest in disclosure of the autopsy report.

Further, because the premature disclosure of an autopsy report could reasonably be expected to interfere with a law enforcement proceeding by giving the target of the investigation premature access to the government’s case in court, the opinion concluded that autopsy reports that are connected with a pending or prospective law enforcement investigation may be withheld from disclosure under the UIPA’s frustration of a legitimate government function exception. Upon the conclusion of the investigation and subsequent prosecution, if any, the autopsy report should be made available for public inspection and copying.

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