Physicians have a legal obligation to conserve patient records, including X-rays. Legal requirements for retention of medical records vary by state and depend on the type of records and their potential use, as well as on policies of associations and medical boards.
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Michigan as Example
Michigan's Public Act 481, which became effective in December 2006, requires that X-ray films and medical records be retained for a minimum of seven years from the date they are taken.
X-rays taken of children must be kept until they reach adulthood. The age of adulthood differs by state. In some state, a person is considered to have reached adulthood at age 18. Georgia, however, requires such records be kept until the person reaches the age of 27.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to conserve X-rays of their employees for a period of at least 30 years, especially if they have been in contact with harmful agents and toxic substances.
Connecticut hospitals are required to keep medical records for 25 years. In Alabama the ceiling is 22 years, while in New Jersey a summary of patients' records must be retained for at least 20 years.
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