Autopsies and the public records law

My friend Jim sent me an interesting e-mail today about an episode he saw of the TV show “Bones” and how it dealt with the Freedom of Information Act and an autopsy. Here’s what he wrote:

“I saw an interesting FOIA clip on ‘Bones’ the other week. A UFO blogger was trying to get into a facility where a sheriff and the FBI had a body they were studying. They wouldn’t let her in so she suddenly says, ‘Alright, I’m invoking the Freedom of Information Act.’ The (guy) looks at her and shakes his head and says, ‘The Freedom of Information Act is not some magic wand you can wave to get what you want.'”

Although it’s a made up scenario, it’s a good lesson about public records laws and how they relate to autopsies. In North Carolina, where I live, autopsy reports and toxicology results are public records and anyone can request to see them. However, photographs, videos and audio recordings from autopsies are not public record.

So, sorry ‘Bones’ UFO blogger, but I’m pretty sure every state in the U.S., no matter their public records law, would ban you from seeing a body in person. Next time, just request the autopsy and toxicology reports. And if you ever find that “magic wand,” let me know!

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