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Post date: March 15 2004

New York Files Amicus Brief To Oppose Federal Government's Subpoena For Patient Medical Records

Attorney General Spitzer today announced the filing of a brief in opposition to the Bush Administration's effort to obtain private medical records from a New York City hospital.

In the context of defending a constitutional challenge to the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act pending in the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, the federal government earlier this year subpoenaed the medical records of certain women who obtained second trimester abortions at New York Presbyterian Hospital. The women whose records were subpoenaed were not part of any lawsuit.

In an amicus curie brief prepared by his office, Spitzer urged the court to recognize New York State law protecting the confidentiality of the women's records. For more than 150 years, New York has protected the confidentiality of patient health information, recognizing the importance of unfettered communication between medical professionals and their patients.

Spitzer also argued that the patients have a constitutionally protected privacy interest in maintaining the confidentiality of the records sought in this case. The privacy interest here is particularly strong because such records might reveal the women's choice to terminate their pregnancies, and possibly other extremely personal and potentially identifying information such as methods of contraception, histories of sexual abuse, rape, sexually transmitted diseases, and marital status.

The brief was prepared by Assistant Attorneys General Lisa Landau and Hilary B. Klein, under the direction of Deputy Solicitor General Michelle Aronowitz.

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