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Oregon AG orders release of identities of heat wave victims

PORTLAND (AP) — The attorney general of Oregon has ordered release of the identities and addresses of most of the state’s 83 confirmed deaths from hyperthermia during June's heat wave.

The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that it and other media sought the information to independently analyze the circumstances of individual deaths and how the safety net failed so many Oregonians.

The state medical examiner had denied media requests for the information, citing the state public records law that makes them conditionally exempt from disclosure.

That law, however, does allow disclosure if the public interest requires it. The Oregonian/OregonLive argued it did in this instance. It appealed the medical examiner’s denial to the Attorney General’s Office, which agreed public disclosure was warranted.

“Disclosure will help inform the public about the impact of this historic event on affected communities, help the public assess the government’s preparedness and responsiveness, and facilitate the development of appropriate public policies that anticipate future extreme climate events,” Friday's order said.

The state had confirmed at least 83 cases of death were due to hyperthermia. Separately, more than 30 other suspected heat deaths remain under investigation and have not been confirmed. Only the confirmed cases are subject to the order.