Delaware Denies Associated Press Requests for AIDS-Related Prisoner Autopsy Information Because of Privacy Concerns
Delaware officials have denied Freedom of Information Act requests from the Associated Press for HIV/AIDS-related information contained in prisoner autopsy reports, making it "difficult" to "piece together" the HIV prevalence rate and the AIDS-related mortality rate among prisoners in the state, the AP/Wilmington News Journal reports. The state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner says that such autopsy information needs to be blacked out because of privacy concerns. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 60% of inmate deaths in Delaware in 1999 were AIDS-related, the highest percentage in the country. However, the number of reported AIDS-related deaths among inmates varies from agency to agency, according to the AP/News Journal. The state medical director's office reported two AIDS-related deaths in Delaware prisons in 2002, four in 2003 and two in 2004, but the state Department of Correction reported one AIDS-related death in 2002, four in 2003 and none in 2004, according to the AP/News Journal.
Response to Request
In response to the FOIA Associated Press request for complete autopsy reports made more than a year ago, state Department of Health and Social Services Deputy Secretary Karryl McManus wrote, "State law requires that certain information contained in the reports be redacted." However, Delaware Deputy Attorney General Ann Woolfolk in a letter to McManus wrote that Delaware's medical privacy law "does not prohibit the OME from releasing post-mortem examination reports that list HIV or AIDS infection as a cause of death," adding, "However, I nonetheless advise against releasing the reports unless the information relating to HIV and AIDS can be redacted so as to prevent identification of the inmate who died due to HIV or AIDS." McManus earlier this month said her previous statement that state law requires the information to be redacted was "inaccurate," but she added that she would not release the information, the AP/News Journal reports. "We believe that protecting that information in the post-mortem reports is an appropriate, good-faith defensible position to take at this time," McManus said (Chase, AP/Wilmington News Journal, 3/28).