May. 13, 2015

HARRISBURG – By a unanimous vote Tuesday, the House advanced legislation sponsored by Rep. Robert Godshall (R-Montgomery) that would maintain the confidentiality of audiovisual material generated during autopsies.

House Bill 65 would prevent the release of photographs, video and audio produced during an autopsy and outlines a procedure for disclosure only in limited circumstances.

“I sponsored this legislation to protect families from the trauma of seeing the bodies of their deceased loved ones published in newspapers, on television news or elsewhere,” said Godshall, whose legislation was prompted by a discussion with NASCAR drivers at Pocono Raceway. The drivers expressed concern after the publishing of photographs of a driver involved in a fatal crash in another state.

Under Godshall’s bill, no audiovisual material would be generated during an autopsy without the written consent of the physician, coroner or medical examiner authorized to perform the procedure. No images or audio recordings produced may be released without permission from next of kin or unless a court determines that the release is necessary to protect public health or safety and that those interests override the privacy interests of the family.

While the bill would allow the official use of the autopsy audiovisual material by law enforcement officers, coroners and medical examiners for training and other official purposes, House Bill 65 would remove it from the respective county’s “official records and papers” that are subject to public inspection.

Anyone who violates the prohibition against preparation of autopsy material commits a second-degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty two years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. A person who violates the prohibition against disclosure commits a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Representative Bob Godshall
53rd District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Donna Pinkham