Cases arising in juvenile court often involve the physical and mental health of the child and his or her parents or guardians. Health care information may not be disclosed for the purpose of the legal proceeding except under very limited circumstances. However, medical information that comes from evaluations ordered by the court are considered part of the court record and are governed by the laws pertaining to Juvenile Court Records, which allows the information to be shared among those involved in the case, including all attorneys and service providers. All other medical information concerning a child or parent is governed by the rules described in this section.
Physical, mental and behavioral health care is provided by numerous professionals – physicians, nurses, hospital workers, psychologists, to name just a few. All of the records maintained by these health care providers, including all confidential communications made within the treatment relationship,
are presumed to be confidential, and may be disclosed by the practitioner only with the consent of the patient, or, if the patient is a minor, a parent or guardian.
The protection for the confidentiality of medical records comes from a variety of legal and non-legal sources. One of the main sources of confidentiality of health care information is the professional ethics of health care practitioners. Every health care profession adheres to a code of ethics that requires the practitioner to respect the privacy of the patient by keeping all information acquired in the course of treatment confidential. While these ethical codes don’t have the authority of law, their violation may subject the professional to disciplinary proceedings and possible loss of license.
The most far-reaching legal protection for the confidentiality of health care information is provided by the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a federal law that was designed to facilitate the electronic exchange of medical information among providers, insurance companies, and other health organizations without compromising any confidentiality of the information. It requires health care providers to strictly limit the disclosure of personally identifiable information without the consent of the patient.
See Confidentiality Provisions of HIPAA.
Stricter confidentiality protection comes from numerous state laws that create "privileges" for certain professionals, allowing the professional to refuse to disclose the content of patient communications in a legal proceeding. The scope of each profession’s privilege varies according to the nature of the profession and each privilege is subject to numerous exceptions under which the professional may, or in some cases must, disclose information about the patient.
See Privileged Communications.
The disclosure of substance abuse treatment records, though covered by the above two levels of protection because it is generally provided by health care practitioners, is also governed by stricter federal law. In Connecticut, state law incorporates the same standard as the federal law, making the federal law applicable to all public and private substance abuse programs in the state. See Records of Substance Abuse Treatment.
Where the medical treatment of minors is concerned, especially when they may be placed outside of the home, issues arise as to who can authorize the treatment and consent to the disclosure of the health care records.
See Medical Treatment of Minors