Sunday, January 22, 2017

If DC Follows Oregon's Interpretation of "not a public record," the Department of Health Will Be Insulated from Review, Even by Law Enforcement

To view similar information in a pdf format, see Margaret Dore's memo opposing Act 21-577, which can be viewed here and here.

The DC Act charges the Department of Health with issuing an annual statistical report based on data collected concerning people who used the Act.[1] The Act also states:
The information collected by the Department pursuant to this act shall not be a public record and may not be made available for inspection by the public under the Freedom of Information Act of 1976, effective March 25, 1977 (D.C. Law 1-96; D.C. Official Code § 2-2-531 et seq.), or any other law. (Emphasis added).[2]
Oregon’s law has a similar provision, as follows:
Except as otherwise required by law, the information collected shall not be a public record and may not be made available for inspection by the public. (Emphasis added).[3]
In Oregon, this similar provision is interpreted to bar release of information about individual cases, including to law enforcement.
Oregon’s website states
The Act specifically states that information collected is not a public record and is not available for inspection by the public (ORS 127.865 (2)). The protection of confidentiality conferred by the Death with Dignity Act precludes the Oregon Health Authority [which oversees Oregon’s Department of Health] from releasing information that identifies patients or participants . . . .
[C]ase-by-case information will not be provided . . . . (Emphasis added) [4]
Consider also this e-mail from Alicia Parkman, Mortality Research Analyst for the Oregon Health Authority, which states:
We have been contacted by law enforcement    . . . in the past, but have not provided identifying information of any type. [5]
If the District of Columbia follows Oregon’s interpretation of "public record," there will be a similar lack of transparency in which even law enforcement will have no access to information about individual cases.


[1]  The Act, §§ 8 (a) & (b).
[2]  Id, § 17.
[3]  ORS 127.865 s.3.11, available at page A-81 of this  link.
[4]  Oregon Data Release Policy, available at page A-70 of this link.
[5] E-mail from Alicia Parkman to Margaret Dore, January 4, 2012, available at page A-63 of this link.