A Douglas County legislator has requested that the district attorney investigate the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, accusing the agency of illegally changing death certificates.
State Rep. Mark Baisley, a Republican from Roxborough Park, made the request to 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler May 14, after a constituent forwarded Baisley a letter from a Centennial senior living facility that raised the question.
The letter from Someren Glen, a senior living community with multiple levels of care, stated that the state health department planned to “override some of our attending physician's rulings and reclassify some resident passings,” according to the letter from the community to residents.
“Falsely inflating the number of deaths due to COVID-19 adversely impacts the professional reputation of nursing homes, hospitals and health care workers while creating undue fear for families,” according to Baisley's letter to Brauchler.
Baisley did not provide evidence in addition to the Someren Glen letter to support his accusation.
The DA's office announced May 15 that there would be an investigation to see if any death certificates were “willfully and falsely altered,” according to a release from the office. If the accusation is true, misdemeanor charges could be filed.
Douglas County Coroner Jill Romann disagrees with the idea that CDPHE has done anything abnormal, she said.
“Reviewing COVID-19 death certificates is needed and I support it because physicians aren't trained the right way to sign them,” she said. “And to get correct statistics, you have to make sure they're signed correctly.”
Romann added that a review of death certificates by the health department is not uncommon.
“It's not the state's effort to make it look worse or better,” she said. “It's fixing erroneously signed death certificates.”
Steve Castro, the manager of operations for the Denver County medical examiner's office, said his office had not experienced any death certificate changes by CDPHE. The issue is not a concern for him, he said.
The day after Baisley sent his letter to Brauchler, CDPHE released a document explaining their COVID-19 death data and denying that the office changes information on death certificates.
“This (data) includes deaths caused by COVID-19 and deaths among people who had COVID-19 at the time of death, but the cause or causes may not have been attributed to COVID-19,” according to the release. “This is the standard way states report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
The release also announced that the state will now provide two separate data points to the public: one of deaths caused by the virus and one with deaths accompanied by COVID-19.
As of May 19, the state reported 1,257 deaths of residents who had COVID-19 at the time of death and 968 deaths directly attributed to the virus.
Once the DA office's investigation is complete, an announcement will come regarding whether or not charges will be filed.
“I think we might be making some progress,” Baisley said. “This has a tremendous impact on people's perceptions.”
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