February 21, 2007

The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.


I have received your letter concerning your ability to seek medical records pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law relating to your mother who is now deceased.

In this regard, first, the Freedom of Information Law is applicable to agency records, and §86(3) defines the term “agency” to mean:

"...any state or municipal department, board, bureau, division, commission, committee, public authority, public corporation, council, office or other governmental entity performing a governmental or proprietary function for the state or any one or more municipalities thereof, except the judiciary or the state legislature."

Based on the foregoing, the Freedom of Information Law generally apples to entities of state and local government. It does not apply to non-profit or private organizations.

Second, §18 of the Public Health Law provides rights of access to medical records to the subjects of those records, as well as other “qualified persons.” Paragraph (g) subdivision (1) of §18 defines “qualified person” to include:

“...a distributee of any deceased subject for whom no personal representative, as defined in the estates , powers and trusts law, has been appointed; or an attorney representing a qualified person or the subject’s estate who holds a power of attorney from the qualified person or the subject’s estate explicitly authorizing the holder to execute a written request for patient information under this section.”

If you are a “qualified person”, it appears that you would have rights of access to the medical records pertaining to your mother.

To obtain additional information concerning access to medical records it is suggested that you contact:

Access to Patient Information Program
New York State Department of Health
Hedley Park Place
Suite 303
433 River Street
Troy, NY 12180

I hope that I have been of assistance.


Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director