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John Cornyn

March 1, 1999

Ms. Karla R. Baugh
Assistant County Attorney
Lamar County Attorney's Office
Lamar County Courthouse, 4th Floor
119 N. Main Street
Paris, Texas 75460


Dear Ms. Baugh:

You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID # 122456.

The Lamar County Attorney's Office received a request for medical reports or any notes or memos regarding three named individuals as they relate to a criminal case that was litigated. You contend that the information at issue must be withheld from public disclosure by sections 552.101, 552.103, 552.107, 552.108, and 552.111 of the Government Code. We have considered the exceptions you claim and reviewed the documents at issue.

You argue that section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 5.08 of the Medical Practices Act (the "MPA") establishes physician-patient confidentiality with regard to these records. You argue that, in this instance, there is no valid exception for disseminating these confidential records.

Section 5.08 the Medical Practices Act, V.T.C.S. art. 4495b, provides:

(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 medical records is not governed by chapter 552 of the Government Code, but rather 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, section 5.08(a), (b), (c), (j); Open Records Decision Nos. 598 (1991), 546 (1990).

The records before us consist of physician and other medical records that clearly are subject to the MPA. You may only release this information in accordance with the MPA. Because the requestor does not appear to be entitled to these records under section 5.08(j)(3), we conclude that you must withhold this information pursuant to section 552.101 of the Government Code in conjunction with section 5.08 of the MPA. Since we have resolved this request under section 552.101 of the Government Code, we need not address your claims under sections 552.103, 552.107, 552.108, and 552.111 of the Government Code.

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.


David Van Brunt Price
Assistant Attorney General
Open Records Division


Ref: ID# 122456

Enclosures: Submitted documents

cc: Mr. Paul E. Maciekowich
ACLU of Texas, Inc.
P.O. Box 132047
Houston, Texas 77219
(w/o enclosures)


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