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Death record replacement required

Published (2/13/2009)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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One familyís multi-year struggle to have their sonís death certificate changed has resulted in a bill that would at least have the issue considered by a court.

Current law makes it nearly impossible to make certificate modifications once a cause of death has been determined by a medical examiner.

Sponsored by Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano), HF176 would make it possible for a court to consider a request to amend a death certificate if it is determined the information is incomplete or incorrect.

Mary Hoeft told the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee Feb. 5 of her struggle to have her sonís cause of death changed from suicide to accidental.

In November 2001, Ryan Hoeft, a former St. Louis Park police officer, was found dead from a gunshot in his police car at the base of a hill. The medical examiner ruled it a suicide. But Mary Hoeft believed her sonís death was accidental and was determined to set the record straight.

Her trip to the committee began after consultation with a different chief medical examiner and the lead accident reconstructionist for the state who made a determination that Hoeftís death was accidental. Armed with the information, including a reenactment video, she again asked to have the cause of death changed. Her request was denied, and she took the issue to court, which said the statute would need to be changed for them to consider her request.

ďFor officers in the state of Minnesota who carry their weapons and chamber a bullet in their gun, and run the risk of death every day because that gun could accidentally misfire at anytime, this is for them; so their families donít have to go through what we did,Ē Hoeft said.

Before being approved and sent to the House floor, the bill was amended to be retroactive to Jan. 7, 2001.

This would allow Hoeftís family to have a court consider whether a change of death statement should be amended on their sonís death certificate.

The billís companion, SF190, sponsored by Sen. Julianne Ortman (R-Chanhassen), awaits action by the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee.

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