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A patient is brought in by EMS after sustaining injuries from a motor vehicle accident. The police arrive with the patient and inform you that he is in their custody. Your patient’s vital signs are stable.

A patient is brought in by EMS after sustaining injuries from a motor vehicle accident. The police arrive with the patient and inform you that he is in their custody. Your patient’s vital signs are stable. You send basic blood work, including a blood alcohol level, a chest radiograph, and a urinalysis. The blood alcohol level comes back above the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle. The rest of the workup is unremarkable. The police officer requests a copy of the patient’s medical record. What is the proper response to his request?

a. Because the patient is in police custody, he does not have the same right to privacy as nonincarcerated citizens; hence you are obliged to give the officer the records.

b. Refusal to give the officer the records is considered obstruction of justice and you can be found criminally liable if you do not comply with his request.

c. Unless the patient consents, you are obligated to refuse the officer’s request for a copy of the medical records as this violates the patient’s rights to privacy under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws.

d. As a licensed physician you are allowed to use your best judgment in a case-by-case basis regarding the release of medical records of incarcerated patients to law enforcement officers. You also must document your rationale in the medical record.

e. You may release all pertinent medical information but can withhold certain data from your workup, which can incriminate the patient in order to protect their rights in a subsequent trial.

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