August 25, 2009
Subpoena For Patient Records Upheld
The New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department held that the State Board for Professional Medical Conduct had sufficient evidence to issue a subpoena for a doctor's records of nine HIV patients. The court further concluded that steps to protect confidentiality were appropriate:
In recognition of the need for confidentiality in this matter, any disclosure order must provide for redactions of material that is not necessary for the conduct of the investigation and must otherwise comply with § 2785(6). At this preliminary stage, the redacted material would include the names and identifying information of the patients whose files are sought (their files can be identified by code), as well as the names and identifying information of other individuals whose names might appear in the file. We caution, however, that the redaction of the names at this stage of the investigation should not be construed to mean the names are to be permanently redacted. There may be a point in the future when the needs, or the results, of the investigation warrant disclosure of certain identities to the OPMC by court order. Respondent also proffers no reason why personal information such as sexual history should be disclosed.
Furthermore, notwithstanding the apparent anomaly in the statute and because the records now are being provided by court order in response to a motion to compel, we direct that each of the nine patients whose files are being sought shall be given the opportunity before the court to submit any objections to the release of certain information in his or her file, and to request appropriate redactions. In weighing such objections the court must be mindful to balance the patients' privacy concerns with the nature of the investigation itself, which involves serious allegations.
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