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Can a doctor withhold my medical records due to an unpaid bill?

Knoxville, TN |

Just wondering what the laws are about this.

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Attorney answers 2


Probably not. You need to check with the state board or association that licenses physicians in your state. In many states, there are statutes or rules that prohibit this type of conduct as unprofessional conduct. You can call the Bureau of Health Licensure and Regulation at (615) 741-8402 to find out the contact information for the medical licensing board in your state.


The Memphis medical Society provides some useful information, which you might want to point out in a letter to your doctor demanding the records be produced immediately to your new physician:

I am delinquent in payment to my physician’s office. Can he/she withhold copies of my medical records until my account is current?

Physicians may not hold records “hostage” as a way of collecting treatment fees. The Board of Medical Examiners (BME) may suspend or revoke the licenses of physicians who violate this law or who refuse to release records for treatment fee collection purposes.

Once I request a release of my medical records, how long does the physician’s office have to provide them to me?

T.C.A. 63-2-101 requires physicians to furnish to a patient or a patient’s authorized representative a copy or summary of the patient’s medical record within ten (10) working days of a written request by the patient or such representative. Failure to comply with this law may result in disciplinary actions from the Board of Medical Examiners (BME).

Is a physician allowed to charge me for the release of my medical records - if so, how much?

T.C.A. 63-2-102 requires the party requesting the patient’s medical records to be responsible for the costs of copying and mailing such records. Reasonable costs shall not exceed twenty dollars ($20.00) for records forty pages or less in length, twenty-five cents per page for each page copied after the first forty (40) pages and actual mailing costs if applicable.

Where / to who may I report a physician for what I feel is unethical or inappropriate business practice or medical conduct?

State Board of Medical Examiners
Tennessee Department of Health
Office of Investigations
227 French Landing, Suite 201
Heritage Place Metro Center
Nashville, TN 37243


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William Eadie

Disclaimer: I am a lawyer licensed in the State of Ohio only, and I am not your lawyer (unless you have been in my office and signed a contract). This communication is not intended as legal advice, and no attorney client relationship results. Please consult your own attorney for legal advice. This is for informational purposes only.