Wrongful Death Cases and Medical Record Privacy

Wrongful Death Cases and Medical Record Privacy

So, there’s something called the physician-patient privilege which guarantees medical record privacy that attorneys have to address when presenting wrongful death cases in a court of law.  The controversy that arises comes from a patient’s right to complete privacy even after death, but some people feel that it’s ridiculous to limit access to patient medical information especially in cases where negligence has been cited as the cause of a person’s passing.  Protected by federal and state law, the physician-patient privilege gives patients the right to only provide medical information to third parties with their verbal or written consent.

Next of Kin, Surviving Spouses, and Personal Representative Rights

Considering that the person in question is no longer able to give the okay to others to access their records, it poses a problem for attorneys who need the records to develop their case against a medical professional.  The law only applies to private or protected health information and can be breached when a court order requires that a party produce medical orders.  There are exceptions in some states, too, that permit a decedent’s next of kin, surviving spouse or personal representative to dissolve the privilege.

Exceptions for Future Litigation

Still, attorneys are hard pressed to get copies of medical records because they are not a doctor or hospital requesting access to the information.  In order to proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit, a legal professional can state that he or she is considering using the records in future litigation.  That may be cause enough to waive the physician-patient.  This is especially true if the lifetime health of the decedent played a role in the case.

Records That Have Nothing to Do With a Case

Obtaining records that have nothing to do with the case is considered bad form and oversteps the boundaries of the waiver.  It could be used to disgrace a decedent’s memory, and that’s why a personal representative is required after a waiver is lifted to prevent that from happening.  That’s why privacy is such a sticky subject when it comes to accessing medical records.

A Spouse’s Right to Say “No” in Some States

If personal injury and negligence is claimed along with wrongful death, potential damages increase.  This may result in better settlements for plaintiffs.  Medical physician-patient privilege is waived in these cases.

That doesn’t mean, however, that all records are available.  A surviving spouse may opt to not allow certain documents to be available if he or she lives in states that permit him or her to withhold the information.  If psychiatric records are requested and the spouse says “No,” in a state where they are permitted to do so, an attorney cannot access the information.

Medical record privacy makes obtaining documents hard but not impossible.  By knowing what challenges are ahead, attorneys are able to have physician-patient privilege waivered.  Information that is relevant to a wrongful death lawsuit can then be presented in court with the intention of receiving a settlement on behalf of the plaintiff, visit 619roofing.com.  More often than not, it’s the deceased patient’s family who pursues a lawsuit on behalf of the decedent.

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