Medical Providers’ Duty to Report Injuries to Law Enforcement

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Jill Moore, one of my colleagues who works in the area of public health law, recently posted on the School of Government’s local government law blog about health care providers’ obligation to report certain injuries to law enforcement. It’s an issue that comes up from time to time, and I thought that our readers would be interested in it too. I’ve pasted the first couple of paragraphs below to whet your appetite; the full post is available here. Thanks to Jill for agreeing to cross-post.

Here at the School of Government, we get a lot of questions about disclosing medical records or information to law enforcement officials. Often the question arises when a law enforcement official appears at a health care facility and presents a search warrant or court order for the information, a situation my colleague Jeff Welty has written about on the SOG’s North Carolina Criminal Law blog. But disclosure of medical information is not always initiated by law enforcement. Sometimes a health care provider treats a patient for an injury or illness, such as a gunshot or stab wound, that suggests a violent crime has occurred. Law enforcement may not be aware of these situations unless someone tells them. Therefore, North Carolina has a statute (G.S. 90-21.20) that requires health care providers to notify local law enforcement officials when they treat patients with particular injuries or illnesses.

The statute has two subsections that address the types of injuries and illnesses that must be reported—one that applies to all patients, and one that applies only to patients who are minor children. Subsection (b) identifies the injuries and illnesses that must be reported regardless of the patient’s age. Subsection (c1) describes the additional circumstances in which a report is required if the patient is a minor child. This post summarizes the provisions of each section and then addresses some frequently asked questions.

Again, if you’d like to read the rest of Jill’s post, it’s here.

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