Editorial: Anderson County sheriff should release medical records of inmate’s death to family

Palestine Herald-Press
Originally published Oct. 19, 2018

Over the last two months, Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor has throttled every information source within reach that could shed light on prisoner Rhonda Newsome’s death.

Now, by withholding Newsome’s medical records from her family, Taylor is not only stretching the limits of state public information laws to stiff the Herald-Press, but also ignoring federal regulations on the security of health information. He is becoming a law onto himself.

On Oct. 4, Anderson County rejected a legally sound request from Newsome’s son, Regan Kimbrough, for his mother’s medical records during the three months she was incarcerated. Newsome, 50, died in the county jail June 15.

Anderson County attorney Robert Davis cited federal regulations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), protecting Newsome’s medical privacy. Despite the county’s touching concern for Newsome’s privacy, Davis ignored Kimbrough’s right, as the administrator of his mother’s estate, to obtain those records under the same regulations.

In contrast, Palestine Regional Medical Center recognized Kimbrough’s authority to secure his mother’s medical records and released them.

Anderson County also invoked the Texas Public Information Act, which permits law enforcement, under certain circumstances , to withhold public records during an investigation.

Read the full editorial here.