The Indiana Supreme Court's ruling that causes of death are public records and must be available at county levels is a decision worth applauding. That we, as The Tribune's Editorial Board, favor the ruling probably comes as no surprise. As journalists, we vigorously defend the concept of transparency in government. But the unanimous ruling released recently, which reversed the lower courtsí decisions, is one that is in the best interests of all Indiana residents.
The lawsuit at the center of this decision was filed after the Vanderburgh County Health Department denied access to cause of death information in 2012, claiming a 2011 state law restricted such information to those who could prove they had a direct interest in it. But the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that death certificates filed with local health departments are in fact public record, covered under Indiana's Access to Public Records Act.
The high court acknowledged that such public disclosures could be painful for the family and friends of the deceased. It goes on to say that the General Assembly has weighed these competing interests and 'concluded that the public interest outweighs the private.' Continue>>>