The Kansas Department of Health and Environment last week rejected a Kansas Open Records Act request submitted by the Kansas Policy Institute, which owns the Sentinel, for death certification information on all deaths attributed to COVID. 

KPI requested “death certificate information listing the cause of death and all contributing factors for all deaths attributed to COVID-19, with all personally identifiable information removed.”  

The written response from KDHE said, “KDHE respectfully declines to fill your request pursuant to K.S.A. 65-2422d, which prohibits the disclosure of vital records except as authorized in the uniform vital statistics act.  Moreover, even if the uniform vital statistics act authorized the release of the information you are seeking, KDHE believes gathering all the information you are seeking would be an unreasonable burden on KDHE during the ongoing global pandemic.”

Improper Attribution

Death certificate inspections performed in Washington and Minnesota found hundreds of deaths that were improperly attributed to COVID.

KPI was seeking the information because it has become clear in some states that deaths from other causes are being attributed to COVID if the decedent happened to have the virus when they died.

The Freedom Foundation, an independent organization but similar in mission to KPI, conducted an analysis in the state of Washington, which found, “… 170 death certificates contained no reference to COVID-19. Another 171 only reference COVID-19 as a possible “contributing factor” and not part of the causal chain of events leading to death. Dozens of other death certificates indicated that deaths attributed by DOH to COVID-19 had only a questionable or minimal connection to the virus.”

Some examples of deaths attributed by the Washington Dept. of Health to COVID-19 that lack any mention of the virus on the death certificate include:

  • a 64-year-old male who died of “acute combined fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, and methadone intoxication”;
  • a 65-year-old male who died from “alcoholic liver disease”;
  • a 69-year-old male suffering from Parkinson’s and vascular dementia who died from malnutrition/dehydration after refusing to eat;
  • a 73-year-old female with underlying health conditions who died after declining treatment for an intestinal abscess;
  • a 75-year-old-male who died following a “pacemaker infection”; and
  • a 99-year-old female who died after losing her balance and falling while trying to retrieve an item from the top of her dresser.

Similar results were discovered in the state of Minnesota, as reported by The Washington Examiner.

“State Rep. Mary Franson and state Sen. Scott Jensen released a video last week revealing that after reviewing thousands of death certificates in the state, 40% did not have COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death.

 “I have other examples where COVID isn’t the underlying cause of death, where we have a fall. Another example is we have a freshwater drowning. We have dementia. We have a stroke and multiorgan failure,” Franson said in the video.

In one case, a person who was ejected from a car was “counted as a COVID death” because the virus was in his system.

COVID death certificate audit needed in Kansas

While not commenting on KDHE’s legal analysis of the KORA request, KPI President James Franko said this is another in a long line of transparency failures by Governor Kelly’s administration.

“This kind of obfuscation is exactly why we’re at historical levels of distrust in government, media, and other institutions. Gov. Kelly and local officials have never really leveled with Kansans about COVID – we’ve been condescended to and told to ‘trust us.’ Treat Kansans like adults and give us complete, timely information.”

The Sentinel multiple times caught the Kelly administration in transparency shortfalls.  They doctored a COVID case chart to justify mask mandates, made misleading statements about COVID deaths, refused legislative requests for PPE distribution to nursing homes, and they have COVID cycle thresholds set far above recommended levels, to name a few.

Franko says KDHE must be compelled to produce the records needed to prove their numbers are accurate.

“It’s unconscionable for the Kelly administration to say they are too busy to be transparent.  There must be an independent audit of KDHE COVID death reporting.”

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