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Indian Health Service The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives


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Revision Memo


Revision memo

MEMORANDUM

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, EDUCATION, AND WELFARE
PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE
HEALTH SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE

DATE: DEC 19 1978

TO: Directors, Area/Program Offices
FROM: Director, Indian Health Service
SUBJECT: Status of Tribal Courts:  Revision of Indian Health Service Policy

Section 3-3.13 F(1)b of the Indian Health Service Manual states that tribal courts are not courts of competent jurisdiction and that, therefore, clinical information held by the Indian Health Service may not be disclosed to such courts under the provision of 42 CFR 1.104.  This policy has been proven to be a barrier to effective cooperation between the Indian Health Service and the tribes in our joint attempts to deal with a number of health related problems that require varying degrees of reliance on local judicial systems - including tribal judicial systems.  The current policy also puts the IHS in the position of appearing to oppose Indian Self-Determination as well as having a view of tribal court jurisdiction contrary to that held by some other HEW agencies.

Based on advice provided by the Office of General Counsel the current Indian Health Service policy is hereby revised to recognized tribal courts as courts of competent jurisdiction and to permit an IHS employee to testify before, or disclose clinical records to a tribal court upon the order of a judge of the tribal court where a determination has been made by an appropriate IHS official that such testimony or disclosure would serve a legitimate health interest.  All other procedures and requirements of this Chapter of the IHS manual which do not conflict with this revised policy remain in effect until such time as the manual is revised.

/Emery A. Johnson, M.D./
Emery A. Johnson, M.D.
Assistant Surgeon General


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