In the U.S. and Canada, I believe birth records are private -- they aren't things anyone can get without some express consent or being the relevant party or their parents/guardian/etc.

My question is, what's the legal distinction between a birth record and a hospital record?

A hospital record need not include a birth record -- as such, could it be obtained by anyone legally?

Hospital records may include stuff like baby weight, size, etc.; a birth record has the entrusted person's full name, birth location, parents, and usually a federal mark/symbol of that state/province.

  • 2
    In the US at least, medical records are private information. In the US, they are protected by HIPAA.
    – phoog
    Commented May 17, 2016 at 4:04

1 Answer 1


The basic legal distinction is that a birth record is a government record maintained by the registrar, regulated by state law, indicating that some person was born to so-and-so on some date. It has presumptive authoritative status in determining that a person is a US citizen, and access is certain information is extremely limited (confidential information on the mother and father cannot be given to the subject). However, anybody can obtain a copy of my birth certificate (as far as I know, there is no confidential information). A hospital record, which records all sorts of stuff, is whatever the caregiver includes, and is regulated by federal regulations (possibly also state law): it is available to anybody with a legitimate (i.e. a medical) claim to access, and it is up to the practicioner to write rules making sure of that. So in fact your understanding of access is pretty much the opposite of how it is, though some states may clamp down on access to birth records.

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