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Are inmate health records public?

Question: I interviewed a jail inmate yesterday who claims that deputies broke his ribs in two places when they arrested him on Dec. 16. He said he complained of the pain daily, but they didn’t x-ray him until Jan. 29. Can I get a copy of the x-rays and any related medical documentation provided the inmate signs off on it?

Answer: I’m sure a request would (appropriately or not) denied with HIPAA as an excuse.  The inmate can request those records, of course, and pass them on to the reporter.

I’d argue that AG Open Records Decision 577 (1990), as noted in the AG handbook, would allow a person to request personally identifiable health information maintained by a state agency with the permission of the person named in the record.  That would be under 552.023.

By Chip Stewart

Dr. Chip Stewart joined the Schieffer School from the University of Missouri, where he finished his Ph.D. while teaching and working at the Columbia Missourian.
Stewart is currently editor-in-chief of Dispute Resolution Magazine, a quarterly publication of the Dispute Resolution Section of the American Bar Association.
His journalism experience includes working as city editor of the Missourian. He is also a sports freelance writer and has worked as a sports public relations assistant at Southern Methodist University.
Stewart earned his law degree at the University of Texas and is licensed to practice both by the Texas bar and the Missouri bar. He worked as an attorney in Killeen in the late 1990s, practicing criminal, bankruptcy and family law. He also clerked in the Travis County Attorney's office.