Public Health Service Act

42 USC 290ee-3

Sec. 290ee-3, Confidentiality of patient records

(a) Disclosure authorization

Records of the identity, diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment of any patient which are maintained in connection with the performance of any drug abuse prevention function conducted, regulated, or directly or indirectly assisted by any department or agency of the United States shall, except as provided in subsection (e) of this section, be confidential and be disclosed only for the purposes and under the circumstances expressly authorized under subsection (b) of this section.

(b) Purposes and circumstances of disclosure affecting consenting patient and patient regardless of consent

(1) The content of any record referred to in subsection (a) of this section may be disclosed in accordance with the prior written consent of the patient with respect to whom such record is maintained, but only to such extent, under such circumstances, and for such purposes as may be allowed under regulations prescribed pursuant to subsection (g) of this section.

(2) Whether or not the patient, with respect to whom any given record referred to in subsection (a) of this section is maintained, gives his written consent, the content of such record may be disclosed as follows:

(A) To medical personnel to the extent necessary to meet a bona fide medical emergency.

(B) To qualified personnel for the purpose of conducting scientific research, management audits, financial audits, or program evaluation, but such personnel may not identify, directly or indirectly, any individual patient in any report of such research, audit, or evaluation, or otherwise disclose patient identities in any manner.

(C) If authorized by an appropriate order of a court of competent jurisdiction granted after application showing good cause therefor. In assessing good cause the court shall weigh the public interest and the need for disclosure against the injury to the patient, to the physician-patient relationship, and to the treatment services. Upon the granting of such order, the court, in determining the extent to which any disclosure of all or part of any record is necessary, shall impose appropriate safeguards against unauthorized disclosure.

(c) Prohibition against use of record in making criminal charges or investigation of patient

Except as authorized by a court order granted under subsection (b)(2)(C) of this section, no record referred to in subsection (a) of this section may be used to initiate or substantiate any criminal charges against a patient or to conduct any investigation of a patient.

(d) Continuing prohibition against disclosure irrespective of status as patient

The prohibitions of this section continue to apply to records concerning any individual who has been a patient, irrespective of whether or when he ceases to be a patient.

(e) Armed Forces and Department of Veterans Affairs; interchange of records; report of suspected child abuse and neglect to State or local authorities

The prohibitions of this section do not apply to any interchange of records -

(1) within the Armed Forces or within those components of the Department of Veterans Affairs furnishing health care to veterans, or

(2) between such components and the Armed Forces. The prohibitions of this section do not apply to the reporting under State law of incidents of suspected child abuse and neglect to the appropriate State or local authorities.

(f) Penalty for first and subsequent offenses

Any person who violates any provision of this section or any regulation issued pursuant to this section shall be fined not more than $500 in the case of a first offense, and not more than $5,000 in the case of each subsequent offense.

(g) Regulations; interagency consultations; definitions, safeguards, and procedures, including procedures and criteria for issuance and scope of orders

Except as provided in subsection (h) of this section, the Secretary, after consultation with the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the heads of other Federal departments and agencies substantially affected thereby, shall prescribe regulations to carry out the purposes of this section. These regulations may contain such definitions, and may provide for such safeguards and procedures, including procedures and criteria for the issuance and scope of orders under subsection (b)(2)(C) of this section, as in the judgment of the Secretary are necessary or proper to effectuate the purposes of this section, to prevent circumvention or evasion thereof, or to facilitate compliance therewith.