The Dead Have Rights

I was amazed to learn this morning, from a coroner's report, that Whitney Houston was wearing a wig and dentures when she died, and that she had breast implants.    I was even more amazed to realize that a government coroner's office will tell the whole world private information like this, even though it has no connection at all to what they're supposed to be investigating--the cause of her death.  Once you are a dead body, you have no secrets.  Not only can the state take your clothes off and dissect your body--that part's understandable--but they can broadcast anything they discover to the entire world, without having to justify specific disclosures in terms of the public's rights to know about them.  Everything's out in the open, if you have the misfortune of being dead.

Surely laws could be written to protect the privacy of the dead.  How about it?  The Whitney Houston Privacy Act--in all 50 states?  Of course, the Supreme Court might strike it down--obviously privacy means nothing to the brilliant dudes who recently upheld strip searches for people held on the most minor charges.  But it's worth a try. I can't see any earthly reason why Whitney Houston shouldn't have been able to take her most personal secrets to the grave.


jollekd said...

I had the same thought this morning when subjected to this "news". Thanks for putting it so well.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know any of this before reading your post. Thanks for spreading the information!

Anonymous said...

What information do you think should not have been collected at the scene? Should they not write down the physical description of the body? Not pay attention to potential bruises, scrapes, marks and injuries? Should they not look for substances? Not record what was around her at the time of death? That would make for a pretty pathetic investigation into cause of death. So if the information should have been collected are you saying it should not have been released? Who decides what goes out to the public? How can you trust an investigation if everyone knows they are only getting part of the story? The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) states that information the government collects should be available by request to the citizens upon whose behalf it was collected. I do wish journalists were competent and relayed news that was relevant, not merely salacious, but that is not going to happen. However, in this case, the remedy of censorship would be worse than the disease of disrespecting the dead.

Roy said...

It is a public document produced by a government entity and as such, should be available to any/all who request it. Local laws define the deaths a coroner must investigate, but most often include those that are sudden, unexpected, and have no attending physician—and deaths that are suspicious or violent.

Bilejones said...

Not only can the state take your clothes off and dissect your body---that part's understandable


Only to those who believe that people are the property of the state.

Anonymous said...

As brusk as it may seem...No the dead do not have privacy...and for that matter, they don't care, they can't be embarrassed - they are dead.

As others have already pointed out, death records (as well as birth records, marriage, legal cases, etc.) are public. They are for a reason, to ensure there isn't anything dishonest happening.

When you start to pick and choose which pieces of information are released, you invite shenanigans. Full disclosure is vital.