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Vital records system is still broken

Oklahoman Published: May 10, 2014
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Some Oklahomans may remember the controversy surrounding a law that restricts access to state vital records. Among other provisions, the law requires copies of death certificates to be issued only to the person who’s listed on the certificate. That’s right: You can’t order a death certificate unless you’re dead! The Legislature had a chance to fix the problem. It failed to do so.

Senate Bill 1448 was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin on April 30. It takes effect Nov. 1. The law was supposed to correct legislation enacted several years ago that addressed vital records access. Last year when a professional genealogist tried to obtain a copy of a death record, the existing law only permitted the named person — the deceased — to request his own death record.

The law also made it a felony if a state Department of Health employee provided the death certificate to anyone other the named person. Instead of fixing the glitch, the state incorporated the Model Vital Records Act provisions, which closes birth records for 125 years, death records for 75 years and marriage/divorce records for 100 years. Unfortunately, the new law retained the same language — permitting only the “named person” to obtain the record during the embargo period.

Therefore, only the deceased may request their own death records. I guess this is proof that lawmakers never read the bills they pass.

Larry Van Horn, Brasstown, N.C.


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