Texas Attorney General Opinion: MW-381 Page: 1 of 5
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The Attorney General of Texas
November 4, 1981
Supreme Court Building
P. O. Box 12548
Austin, TX. 78711
1607 Main St., Suite 1400
Dallas, TX. 75201
4824 Alberta Ave., Suite 160
El Paso, TX. 79905
1220 Dallas Ave., Suite 202
Houston, TX. 77002
806 Broadway, Suite 312
Lubbock, TX. 79401
4309 N. Tenth, Suite B
McAlen, TX. 78501
200 Main Plaza, Suite 400
San Antonio, TX. 78205
An Equal Opportunity/
Affirmative Action Employer
Honorable W. J. Estelle, Jr.
Texas Department of Corrections
Huntsville, Texas 77340
Dear Mr. Estelle:
Opinion No. MW-381
Re: Whether Texas Department
of Corrections inmate may
review his own medical records
You have requested our opinion as to whether an inmate of the
Texas Department of Corrections [hereinafter TDC] is entitled to
review his own medical records held by the department.
It has been suggested that an inmate might have a constitutional
or common law right to inspect his own medical records. In Paine v.
Baker, 595 F.2d 197 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 925 (1979), the
court considered a similar claim. In that case, a statute prohibited
disclosure of prison records except to certain named persons.
Although the opinion notes that an inmate has a limited right,
grounded in due process, to have erroneous information expunged from
his prison file, it emphasizes that there is "no constitutional
requirement that a prisoner have access to his file." 595 F.2d at
As to an inmate's common law right of access, we are aware that
Attorney General Opinion MW-95 (1979) found that an individual has a
common law right to review his own criminal history record information
held by a law enforcement agency. That opinion, however, was based
largely upon the existence of federal regulations granting to an
individual a right of special access to criminal history record
information about him in the custody of an agency which is the
recipient of federal funds. Since no federal regulations require the
disclosure of prison medical records to an inmate, we do not believe
that the reasoning of Attorney General Opinion MW-95 is applicable to
Neither do we believe that Hutchins v. Texas Rehabilitation
Commission, 544 S.W.2d 802 (Tex. Civ. App. - Austin 1976, no writ),
requires a different result. In that case, the court held that a
former patient of the rehabilitation commission had a common law right
to inspect her own records. Likewise, Morris v. Hoerster, 377 S.W.2d
841 (Tex. Civ. App. - Austin 1964, no writ), dealt with access to
state hospital records by a former patient. In the situation you
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Texas. Attorney-General's Office. Texas Attorney General Opinion: MW-381, text, 1981; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth272226/m1/1/: accessed November 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.