Last week, we wrote about how South Dakota citizens can't access autopsy records, and how that plays into the Richard Benda death investigation. We also highlighted how open autopsy records in one case helped spark a new investigation into the suspicious death of a high school student.
And earlier this week, we wrote about how Attorney General Marty Jackley would prefer autopsy records remain confidential.
But autopsy records don't just have the power to reveal problems in criminal investigations. When reporters can access autopsy records, they can find all sorts of wrongdoing, writes William Heisel in a 2012 article. Heisel writes:
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Reporters who have been able to gain access to death and autopsy records have written stories about, among other things, medical errors, patient safety, painkiller abuse, physician discipline, infectious diseases and the trade in human body parts. Many of these stories have led to changes in laws and policies that have had a tangible public benefit. They have put dangerous physicians out of business, and they have opened to public scrutiny harmful and unethical health practices. There is no easy way to determine exactly how many lives have been saved because of stories like these, but consider that one physician alone who had his license taken away because of stories that relied on death certificates and autopsies was found responsible for the deaths of two patients, including an infant.
Go and click the links in the graph above to read for yourself the criminal and medial wrongdoing that have been exposed because of public autopsy reports. Which we in South Dakota, of course, don't have the right to see.