2017 Georgia Code
Title 37 - Mental Health
Chapter 3 - Examination, Treatment, etc., for Mental Illness
Article 6 - Rights and Privileges of Patients, Their Representatives, etc., Generally
Part 2 - Rights and Privileges as to Manner of Care and Treatment and as to Maintenance and Release of Clinical Records
§ 37-3-166. Treatment of clinical records; when release permitted; scope of privileged communications; liability for disclosure; notice to sheriff of discharge
- (a) A clinical record for each patient shall be maintained. Authorized release of the record shall include but not be limited to examination of the original record, copies of all or any portion of the record, or disclosure of information from the record, except for matters privileged under the laws of this state. Such examination shall be conducted on hospital premises at reasonable times determined by the facility. The clinical record shall not be a public record and no part of it shall be released except:
- (1) When the chief medical officer of the facility where the record is kept deems it essential for continued treatment, a copy of the record or parts thereof may be released to physicians or psychologists when and as necessary for the treatment of the patient;
- (2) A copy of the record may be released to any person or entity designated in writing by the patient or, if appropriate, the parent of a minor, the legal guardian of an adult or minor, or a person to whom legal custody of a minor patient has been given by order of a court;
- (2.1) A copy of the record of a deceased patient or deceased former patient may be released to or in response to a valid subpoena of a coroner or medical examiner under Chapter 16 of Title 45, except for matters privileged under the laws of this state;
- (3) When a patient is admitted to a facility, a copy of the record or information contained in the record from another facility, community mental health center, or private practitioner may be released to the admitting facility. When the service plan of a patient involves transfer of that patient to another facility, community mental health center, or private practitioner, a copy of the record or information contained in the record may be released to that facility, community mental health center, or private practitioner;
- (4) A copy of the record or any part thereof may be disclosed to any employee or staff member of the facility when it is necessary for the proper treatment of the patient;
- (5) A copy of the record shall be released to the patient's attorney if the attorney so requests and the patient, or the patient's legal guardian, consents to the release;
- (6) In a bona fide medical emergency, as determined by a physician treating the patient, the chief medical officer may release a copy of the record to the treating physician or to the patient's psychologist;
- (7) At the request of the patient, the patient's legal guardian, or the patient's attorney, the record shall be produced by the entity having custody thereof at any hearing held under this chapter;
- (8) A copy of the record shall be produced in response to a valid subpoena or order of any court of competent jurisdiction, except for matters privileged under the laws of this state;
- (8.1) A copy of the record may be released to the legal representative of a deceased patient's estate, except for matters privileged under the laws of this state;
- (9) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a law enforcement officer in the course of a criminal investigation may be informed as to whether a person is or has been a patient in a state facility, as well as the patient's current address, if known; and
- (10) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a law enforcement officer in the course of investigating the commission of a crime on the premises of a facility covered by this chapter or against facility personnel or a threat to commit such a crime may be informed as to the circumstances of the incident, including whether the individual allegedly committing or threatening to commit a crime is or has been a patient in the facility, and the name, address, and last known whereabouts of any alleged patient perpetrator.
- (b) In connection with any hearing held under this chapter, any physician, including any psychiatrist, or any psychologist who is treating or who has treated the patient shall be authorized to give evidence as to any matter concerning the patient, including evidence as to communications otherwise privileged under Code Section 24-5-501, 24-12-1, or 43-39-16.
- (c) Any disclosure authorized by this Code section or any unauthorized disclosure of confidential or privileged patient information or communications shall not in any way abridge or destroy the confidential or privileged character thereof, except for the purpose for which such authorized disclosure is made. Any person making a disclosure authorized by this Code section shall not be liable to the patient or any other person, notwithstanding any contrary provision of Code Section 24-5-501, 24-12-1, or 43-39-16.
- (d) When a sheriff transports an adult involuntary patient to a facility, that sheriff may request in writing that a notice of such patient's discharge be given to the sheriff; and such notice shall be provided if such patient or the patient's guardian consents in writing to the disclosure or if, in its discretion, the court ordering the involuntary treatment provides for such notice in the order issued pursuant to Code Section 37-3-81.1.
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