09/17/2010 3:49PM

Hospital agrees to release Martinez's records to stem-cell doctors

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Health officials at Highland General Hospital in Oakland agreed late on Friday to release medical records related to the spinal-cord injury suffered by jockey Michael Martinez to specialists in Chicago who are capable of conducting experimental treatments for paralysis, according to Golden Gate Fields’s track physician and the rider’s attorney.

The officials agreed to release the records after requests by the physician, Dr. David Seftel, and the injured jockey’s family to have neurosurgeons at Northwestern University’s hospital review the records to determine if Martinez is a candidate for experimental embryonic stem-cell treatments. Officials at Highland General had earlier refused to release the records, citing laws that prohibit the release of the records to anyone but Martinez, who has been rendered incapable of responding to specific requests because of the nature of his injuries.

“They’ve agreed to release the information that is essential to determine whether or not Michael is a candidate,” Seftel said. “The bottom line is that he will have the opportunity to be evaluated.”

The treatments are time-specific to the injury, and would require Martinez to be at Northwestern by Sept. 26, if neurosurgeons there determine he is a candidate. The hospital at Northwestern is the only facility that is accredited to conduct the treatments, which have been effective in experiments with rats in restoring some spinal-cord functionality.

Martinez suffered the injury on Sunday at Golden Gate when his mount, Fair ‘n Warmer, clipped heels near the three-eighths pole of a $4,000 claiming race at five furlongs. He is currently paralyzed from the waist down.

Martinez also suffered a severe concussion in the accident, and he has had to be administered powerful sedatives because of the extent of his injuries and emotional distress he has displayed while conscious, Seftel said. As a result, he has not been able to communicate with doctors to the extent necessary to sign the forms to release his records.

Srinoi Rousseau, the attorney hired by Martinez’s parents, said late on Friday that she filed a motion on Friday in California asking the courts to give his parents the power to control the dissemination of his medical records as his “temporary conservator.”

Although the hospital has agreed to release the records to Northwestern, Rousseau said she would continue to pursue the request.

“We just want to make sure that there aren’t any further problems,” Rousseau said. “We need the parents to have access to the medical records so that we can avoid any of these situations.”