If someone you love passes away due to mistakes made at a hospital or by a physician, then your family may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death claim. One thing you may find troublesome is that there is physician-patient privilege that could make it hard to obtain your loved one’s medical records.
In the United States, a person’s medical records stay private even after death, which is why it can be difficult to obtain those records without a court order. Physician-patient privilege is there to protect patients from having their medical information shared without consent, but in a case of a wrongful death, that information is necessary in order to make a claim.
It would make sense for the privilege to waive immediately upon a person’s death, but that’s not what happens. In some places, the personal representative of the person’s estate may obtain the documents. In other situations, only spouses or those indicated by medical documents granting them access may see the medical information.
The benefit of bringing a wrongful-death lawsuit against a hospital or physician is that it may waive the physician-patient privilege in place. Since the records are necessary for litigation and the health care provided is in question, the court could grant access to the documents.
It can be hard to know if you’ll be able to access your loved one’s documents. Your attorney can help you collect information and seek access to the appropriate medical documents for the purpose of the case. Our website has more on what to do if you want to make a claim.