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I'm a leader in a church-sponsored children's group. We're going to attend a half-day "day camp" run by Boy Scouts of America. The activities will include short hikes, archery, bb guns, and paddling in a shallow pond. The camp is requesting from me (as a leader) a detailed medical history, including all past surgeries, all diagnoses, and full medication list.

This is more personal information than I would like to provide and allow them to store. If I refuse to provide such detailed information, and rather state that I'm physically able to perform my role as a leader, does privacy law protect me from being turned away?

For example, and employer can't ask an applicant for a list of disabilities, list of illnesses/operations, or medical history. But they can ask if an interviewee is able to perform the essential functions of the job, or to undergo a medical exam after a job is offered. (Source: University of New England, https://www.une.edu/sites/default/files/legal_interview_questions.pdf)

Notes:

  • I've recently done activities which involved much more risk--whitewater rafting and sea kayaking. The touring companies I went through didn't ask for nearly as much medical info.

  • I've searched a bit through HIPAA explanations, and the closest example I've found has to do with employers requesting records. If I understand correctly, an employer has a right to require medical records if they feel they might need to make an ADA accommodation, or if job safety might be endangered.

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    This is probably the form you should have been given: filestore.scouting.org/filestore/HealthSafety/pdf/…. It does ask for history apparently which is a surprise to me if it was there the last time I filled one out. I think they only really care if you have a condition that may need accommodations during the trip, or have a condition like asthma that can cause an emergency so they can look out for that. scouting.org/health-and-safety/ahmr for more infor
    – cat40
    Jun 14, 2023 at 3:16
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    Note that employee/employer relationships, customer/client relationships, and volunteer/organization relationships sit on different legal footings. Most of the laws you're familiar with and the other experiences you mention fall into the first two categories so they may not be directly applicable here.
    – bta
    Jun 14, 2023 at 19:35
  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Law Meta, or in Law Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – feetwet
    Jun 15, 2023 at 13:42

2 Answers 2

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You generally are not required to share your medical details with people you don't want to. That said, the camp would also not be required to allow people who don't comply to enroll. They can't force you to divulge your information, but you can't force them to let you come if you don't, either.

HIPAA deals with the ability of healthcare providers to disclose medical information to parties who aren't the patient themselves - it would be a HIPAA violation for your doctor to disclose your information directly to the camp without your consent. HIPAA has absolutely no bearing on who you choose to disclose your own information to, however - you can disclose your own information to anyone you want.

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  • Thanks for the answer. I've updated my question to ask whether I'm protected from being turned away. Jun 13, 2023 at 20:27
  • This answer inspires little confidence because of the extremely general statements without reference to OP's jurisdiction (Utah). While in se you don't have to tag the jurisdiction if your answer is for OP's jurisdiction, maybe you should do it anyway to make it clear that you actually looked at Utah law and are not just answering generally about what you think the law is across the entire US. Also I feel like an answer for Utah about privacy can't be complete without at least mentioning how the Utah Consumer Privacy Act does or doesn't apply, even though it's not in effect yet. Jun 15, 2023 at 7:48
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I was a Boy Scout as a boy, am currently registered as a Boy Scout leader, and it's been over 10 years since my oldest child started Cub Scouts. As mentioned in a comment, the form you're asking about is probably the Annual Health and Medical Record, parts A and B. (There's also a parts A, B and C version of the form that includes a page that must be filled out by a doctor.)

My understanding of the way the form is used is that it has two purposes:

  1. It allows event organizers and supervisors to take reasonable precautions to keep all participants healthy (not just the adults filling out the form for themselves, or children whose parents filled out the form for them, but also other children whose parents entrusted them to the organizers of the activity).
  2. In the event that a participant is injured and requires medical care, and is unconscious or incoherent, the form will be shared with first responders or the Emergency Room. (Although I've heard from leaders who actually had to take someone to the emergency room that there was little opportunity to introduce the form, even though they had it ready!)

It's not used to deny someone membership in Boy Scouts of America (the youth or adult membership application is a separate form, and has no medical questions.) And while various people might possess the form and many of them are unpaid volunteers, the tradition is that the form is kept private and only shared with those who "need to know" its contents. At day-camps and similar activities run by my Council, the form is reviewed once by a designated health officer at check-in, kept in a secure place by that officer, and returned to an adult participant, or the parent or other leader of a youth, at the end of the activity.

And if the information disclosed on the form suggests that the subject's participation is unsafe, that might mean the subject is refused participation in the activity, but it might also give the organizers an opportunity to prepare an accommodation. For example, suppose there is a ladder on a certain course that is rated at 200 pounds, and you report that you weigh 215 pounds. They could tell you that you can't go on the course, or they could replace that ladder with a ladder rated at 250 pounds.

(Although for a situation like that, it might be prudent for the operators to have a scale at the course entrance, and re-weigh everyone before entry!)

While I've dealt with private tour operators and standalone youth camps that had shorter liability-release forms, that might not be the best comparison. Typically a tour operator runs one specific activity (whitewater rafting on a particular river, or climbing a particular mountain). The BSA program could include activities all the way from playing with dough (could trigger a gluten allergy in a child who nibbles it) to scuba diving, sometimes at an organized "camp" like the one you were going to and sometimes at public parks or even privately-owned backcountry.

A better comparison might be the Utah High School Athletic Association's Pre-Participation Examination Form, or "Physical Form A". Not counting the instructions, that's three pages. Utah isn't alone in having such a form for student athletes; I live in Michigan, and have had to fill out the Michigan High School Athletic Association's Physical Card/Medical History Form every year I wanted my children to play sports.

And just because another organization's form is shorter doesn't mean that it doesn't require medical details. For example, one well-known church headquartered in Utah uses a Permission and Medical Release Form (description), which includes questions under the headings "Medical Information", "Conditions that Limit Activity", and "Other Accommodations or Special Needs". The instructions for that last block end with "(attach additional pages if needed)."

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