What to know about disclosing medical records

Jul 31, 2021 | Wrongful Death

Losing a loved one to a negligent action is bound to be one of the most heart-wrenching events of your life. By filing a wrongful death suit, you may at least find compensation for expenses related to your loved one’s death. But if you wish to pursue damages, you should consider the possibility that the negligent party may ask for your relative’s medical records.

The subject of your loved one’s medical records will likely be a sensitive one for you. You may worry that the suit will cause a court to disclose them. Alternatively, you may want to reveal the records if you believe they will help your case. Learning some information about the privacy of medical records may help you going forward.

Explaining the physician-patient privilege

FindLaw explains that under federal and state law, you have a right of privacy when it comes to your interactions with your doctor. Unless you waive the privilege, your doctor cannot disclose information acquired while attending to you in a professional capacity. This privilege still exists after you die. So your loved one’s medical records do not automatically become available after your relative’s death.

Exceptions to the privilege

The subject of how and when a decedent’s medical records become disclosed is sometimes a hard question to answer. It depends on the laws involved. In some states, the personal representative of the deceased may waive the privacy privilege on behalf of the decedent. A next of kin or surviving spouse may do this as well.

If you act as a personal representative for your loved one, you may wish to reveal your relative’s medical records to bolster your case. If you do manage to waive the privacy privilege, you should make sure not to go beyond what the waiver requires. You should be able to protect any sensitive information your loved one would not want to be revealed.

Addressing psychiatric records

It is also important to know that medical records and psychiatric records are not one and the same. So in the event, your loved one’s medical records become available to the court, it does not mean that your relative’s psychiatric records will also become available. A completely separate privilege exists for a person’s sessions with a psychotherapist. So your loved one’s psychiatric sessions should not come out if they are irrelevant to the case.