Inmate Loses Bid to Keep Medical Records Private

     (CN) – A man serving time for kidnapping and rape cannot block psychologists from reviewing his medical records and recommending that he be civilly committed as a sexually violent predator, the 9th Circuit ruled.

     Michael Seaton challenged a decision by California mental health officials to have him civilly committed as he neared his early release date. He had served 16 years of a 31-year prison sentence for kidnapping and rape.
     As his release date approached, the county sheriff’s department had him transferred to a state hospital where he was evaluated. His medical and criminal records were reviewed by psychologists.
     The experts recommended that Seaton be committed after determining that he has a mental illness and is a sexually violent predator.
     Seaton sued, claiming he has a constitutional right to keep his medical records private.
     A federal judge dismissed Seaton’s lawsuit for failure to state a claim. The three-judge panel in Pasadena affirmed — but for a different reason.
     It ruled that, in the interest of protecting the public, Seaton’s records were not subject to privacy laws.
     “One who goes to a physician in order to obtain medical benefit to himself or his family has substantial privacy interests that may or may not be constitutionally protected,” Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote.
     “One who is compelled to submit to medical examination for the benefit of the public, to determine whether because of mental disease he is likely to engage in sexually predatory behavior, does not.”

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