Rights and Responsibilities Regarding Medical Records in California, Part II

Previously, we discussed a patient’s right to access their records maintained by a health care professional. However, these rights are not without some exception. A health care provider has the right to deny access to medical records to an individual who would otherwise be entitled to them in the following circumstances:
Minor’s Records If the minor has the right to consent to medical treatment, they have the right to access the records for that treatment
and their parent or guardian does not have the right to access those records. If a health care provider determines that allowing a parent or guardian to access a minor’s records will be detrimental to any of the following, they may deny the requested access:

  • The provider’s relationship with the patient
  • The minor’s physical safety
  • The minor’s psychological well-being

Mental Health Records A provider may deny you access to your mental health records if they determine that viewing those records poses a “substantial risk” of causing you “adverse or detrimental consequences.” If a provider denies you access to your mental health records, they are required to do the following:

  • Prepare a written description of the specific anticipated negative consequences and place it as part of the requested records
  • Inform you of the denial and your right to have the records inspected by one of the following licensed professionals


  1. Licensed physician
  2. Psychologist
  3. Marriage and Family Therapist
  4. Clinical Social Worker
  5. Professional Clinical Counselor

Drug and Alcohol Treatment Records Federal Law severely restricts the disclosure of drug and alcohol treatment records. Drug and alcohol treatment records may not be used to initiate or substantiate criminal charges against a patient or to assist in the investigation thereof. They cannot be disclosed even with your own express, written consent. Rather, these records are limited to disclosure pursuant to a court order, to health care providers in order to deal with a medical emergency, and for the purposes of:

  • Scientific Research
  • Management Audits
  • Financial Audits
  • Program Evaluation

However, when records are used for these purposes, the patient’s identity must not be disclosed. The discussion of exceptions to records access was a little more lengthy than I anticipated, so we will leave our promised examination of remedies for being denied access to your records for our next installment.