Tags: Justice | Department | Seeks | Records | Partial-Birth | Abortion

Justice Department Seeks Records on Partial-Birth Abortion

Thursday, 12 February 2004 12:00 AM

The Justice Department insists it does not want any names or other patient information in the records. The main purpose of the subpoenas, officials say, is to verify that the doctors who brought the lawsuits have performed the procedure and under what circumstances.

"No patient will be linked to any medical information contained in the records," Justice attorneys said in a brief filed in an Illinois case.

Government lawyers frequently subpoena medical records with names and other identifying information removed in court cases, such as those involving medical fraud, officials said.

But hospitals have been reluctant to produce the information. The University of Michigan refused several weeks ago based on grounds of privacy, spokeswoman Kallie Michels said Wednesday.

Earlier this week, a federal district judge in Chicago blocked the release of the information from Northwestern Memorial Hospital, citing Illinois privacy laws. Another judge is considering a similar request from Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia.

The Justice Department also is seeking records from Weill Cornell Medical Center and Columbia University's hospital, both in New York.

Michels said Wednesday that the Justice Department issued a subpoena for records of certain abortions performed by Dr. Timothy Johnson in the last three years. Johnson is one of seven plaintiffs.

Michels said the hospital would consider providing information as long as names and other identifying information were removed. She said the university was waiting to see if the court ordered it to provide that information.

She added that Johnson had told Michigan attorneys that he did not think the hospital had performed any of the type abortions at issue in the last three years. Johnson's attorneys at American Civil Liberties Union refused to comment on the case Wednesday.

The Justice Department says it is trying to establish the circumstances behind the abortions that the plaintiffs performed, because the plaintiffs might argue that the procedures were medically necessary. It says it also wants to establish whether the plaintiffs can be considered experts on the procedure.

U.S. District Judge Richard Casey, who is hearing the case in New York, expressed frustration last week at hospitals' reluctance to turn over the records, according to a court transcript of a meeting with attorneys

In response to an attorney for the plaintiffs, who said the plaintiffs cannot force hospitals to surrender the records, Casey said he would "not let the doctors hide behind the shield of the hospital."

"They didn't have to be plaintiffs. They chose to be, and now they are going to get it done," Casey said.

Casey has blocked the law from taking effect until he considers the case. A hearing in the case is scheduled for March 29.

The lawsuit was one of three filed last November by National Abortion Federation immediately after President Bush signed a law banning the abortion procedure.

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The Justice Department insists it does not want any names or other patient information in the records. The main purpose of the subpoenas, officials say, is to verify that the doctors who brought the lawsuits have performed the procedure and under...
Justice,Department,Seeks,Records,Partial-Birth,Abortion
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2004-00-12
Thursday, 12 February 2004 12:00 AM
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