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Record Request for Deceased

March 5, 2013

Question:

Jennifer,

I received a call today from a patient's sister requesting records.  Apparently the patient passed away from a heart attack.  I believe the patient's sister believes we may be at fault.  Do I have to provide the records? 

Thanks,
Dr. G

Answer:

Depending on what the sister presents with or what type of access the patient had authorized the sister to have while alive will dictate the answer here.  If the patient had not given consent for the sister to be informed of care and authorized to access the patient's records, then without proof the sister has been appointed the administrator or executor of the patient's estate, she would not be authorized to receive the patient's records. Proof the sister had been appointed the administrator or executor of the patient's estate would be in the form of letters of administration or executorship. 

Issues such as this clearly illustrates the need to have counsel handy. I would also recommend that the practice have as limited interaction with the patient's family as necessary because the record request clearly indicates a desire to proceed against the practice for a potential malpractice claim.  You may want your attorney to communicate directly on your behalf.  And, it may just be time to put your carrier on notice...


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