On a child’s death certificate: Proposed bills would curtail information

Two proposed bills before state House committees would limit access of the general public to certain information now available on a death certificate of a child; a third would limit access of the general public to certain information contained on all marriage and death certificates.

The bills have resulted from the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and the subsequent requests for death certificates for the victims — 20 children and six adults.

The bills have the support of Newtown’s state legislators — state Rep. Dan Carter (R-2nd District), who represents part of Newtown, Rep. Mitch Bolinsky (R-106th District) and Rep. DebraLee Hovey (R-112th District).

On Friday, Feb. 22, Redding Town Clerk Michele Grande, a member of the Connecticut Town Clerks Association’s Legislative Committee, testified in Hartford on a bill proposed by Mr. Carter and Mr. Bolinsky. She said her association favors not disclosing certain information contained in a death certificate.

This bill (HB 5421) would amend a section of the state’s Freedom of Information laws (1-210) to exempt death certificates of minors from public disclosure for a period of 10 years after the death of the minor. The purpose, the proposal states, is to protect the families of deceased minors by exempting some personal information from the public.

The town clerks association supports the concept of this bill but recommends the proposal be amended “so that it can be properly managed,” said Ms. Grande.

As clerks, her members “are well aware that certain information contained in a death certificate can be used to establish identity or to locate and harass family members. This issue has been brought to the forefront recently by the Newtown town clerk and we are fully supportive of this attempt to provide some protection to the families who have lost a minor child,” she testified.

Her association recommends a closer look at HB 6157, an act concerning personally identifying information on marriage and death certificates, which was also proposed by the two legislators. This bill was referred to the Public Health Committee.

This bill would amend Section 51-a of the Connecticut General Statutes to ensure that certain personally identifying information is not included in marriage and death certificates when requested by individuals other than one of the parties to the marriage, immediate family members of said parties, attorneys-at-law, or genealogists who have access under Section 51-a or in the case of a death certificate, an immediate family member, informant, funeral director, licensed embalmer, attorney-at-law, conservator, genealogist, or physician.

The town clerks association believes this bill would provide the same protection in HB 5421 while ensuring “appropriate access to vital records by allowing only certain information to be disclosed to the general public,” Ms. Grande said.

Now a death certificate includes the date of death, where the person was born, the mother’s maiden name, where the deceased is buried, whether an autopsy was done, the deceased’s Social Security number, etc.

Wilton Town Clerk Bettye Ragognetti, who is a member of the Town Clerks Association, said if a member of the general public asks for a copy of a marriage certificate, which is the same as a marriage license, or death certificate, any Social Security numbers are blocked.

The town clerks association is recommending that instead a “certification of death registration” or “certification of marriage registration” be issued to anyone other than the above-named individuals. This “certification of death registration” would contain the name, sex, date of death, and town of death. The “certification of marriage” shall contain the names, date of marriage and town of marriage.

HB 5722, proposed by Mr. Bolinsky, would allow officials to restrict access to the death certificates of children when it is likely to cause “undue hardship” for the family of the child. Current law allows any adult the ability to purchase a copy of the death certificate of any resident from the municipality’s town clerk.