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TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: A century-old murder mystery provokes a modern legal battle over access to medical records

(06/25/13 8:08pm)

A century ago, a crusading Connecticut newspaper editor helped bring to justice the murderous owner of an old-age home, relying on death certificates that showed boarders at the facility had a suspicious habit of dying from poison. The story of Amy Archer Gilligan -- who died in a state mental hospital in 1962, having been incarcerated 43 years for murder -- inspired the (exceedingly) dark comedy play and film, "Arsenic and Old Lace." And now, it has inspired something more: A sensible ruling that harmonizes state freedom-of-information law with federal health-care privacy law. Privacy laws are widely mis-cited to obstruct journalists' access to public records, and none more flagrantly so than HIPAA, the federal health care privacy statute.