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April 12, 1999

Ms. Susan E. Tennyson
Office of General Counsel
Texas Department of Health
1100 West 49th Street
Austin, Texas 78756-3199

OR99-0976

Dear Ms. Tennyson:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 123376.

The Texas Department of Health (the "department") received a request for a copy of the investigation into the death of a named individual. The requestor also seeks copies of any and all completed investigations into the Brentwood Stair Methadone Clinic.(1) You state that some responsive information has been released. You claim, however, that the submitted documents are excepted from disclosure under section 552.101 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and reviewed the submitted documents.

Section 552.101 excepts from disclosure information that is made confidential by law, including information made confidential by statute. You assert that the submitted documents are protected by the Medical Practice Act (the "MPA"), article 4495b of Vernon's Texas Civil Statutes. The MPA protects:

(b) Records of the identity, diagnosis, evaluation, or treatment of a patient by a physician that are created or maintained by a physician are confidential and privileged and may not be disclosed except as provided in this section.

(c) Any person who receives information from confidential communications or records as described in this section other than the persons listed in Subsection (h) of this section who are acting on the patient's behalf may not disclose the information except to the extent that disclosure is consistent with the authorized purposes for which the information was first obtained.

Section 5.08(j)(3) requires that any subsequent release of medical records be consistent with the purposes for which a governmental body obtained the records. Open Records Decision No. 565 at 7 (1990). Thus, access to the medical records at issue is not governed by chapter 552 of the Government Code, but rather provisions of the MPA. Open Records Decision No. 598 (1991). Information that is subject to the MPA includes both medical records and information obtained from those medical records. See V.T.C.S. art. 4495b, 5.08(a), (b), (c), (j); Open Records Decision No. 598 (1991). We have bracketed the information that was obtained from confidential medical records. The department must release this information only in accordance with the MPA. Open Records Decision Nos. 598 (1991), 546 (1990); see V.T.C.S. art. 4495b, 5.08 (c), (j), (k). The remaining information must be released.

We are resolving this matter with an informal letter ruling rather than with a published open records decision. This ruling is limited to the particular records at issue under the facts presented to us in this request and should not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records. If you have questions about this ruling, please contact our office.

Sincerely,

June B. Harden
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division

JBH/ch

Ref: ID# 123376

encl. Marked documents

cc: Mr. Brandon Todd
Fox 4 News, KDFW
1200 Summit Avenue, #840
Fort Worth, Texas 76102

(w/o enclosures)


 

Footnotes

1. You have not submitted documents relating to this portion of the request. Therefore, we presume that to the extent such information exists, it has been released. See Gov't Code 552.301.
 

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