Before deciding to release a deceased’s patient’s records, you would have to consider;
Section 32.1 of the Guidelines state
“32.1 Patient information remains confidential even after death. If it is unclear whether the patient consented to the disclosure of information after their death, you should consider how the disclosure might benefit or cause distress to the deceased’s family or carers. You should also consider the effect of disclosure on the reputation of the deceased and the purpose of the disclosure. Your discretion in this area might be limited by law. See also paragraph 67 in relation to Open Disclosure and Duty of Candour.”
As per the Medical Council Guidelines, individual discretion in this area may be limited by law.
In making your assessment, the factors you should consider include:
If no such solicitor is retained, the doctor must verify that the personal representative or executor is actually acting as such, when making the request.
“Patients have a right to get copies of their medical records except where this is likely to cause serious harm to their physical or mental health. Before giving copies of the records to the patient, you must remove information relating to other people, unless those people have given consent to the disclosure.”
While the above section does not specifically apply to a deceased patient’s records, we advise that before you release copy records to anyone you review the records carefully and consider, on a case by case basis, the requirement to redact all information in relation to third parties.
The main objective here is to be as helpful as possible to the family and not to impede or obstruct the request in any way. However, this approach must be balanced by the need to ensure that breach of confidentiality towards a deceased patient is appropriate.
Each request for records is to be considered on a case by case basis. If you have any queries in relation to a request for a copy of a deceased patient’s medical records you should contact the advisory team at Medisec.
The contents of this publication are indicative of current developments and contain guidance on general medico legal queries. It does not constitute and should not be relied upon as definitive legal, clinical or other advice and if you have any specific queries, please contact Medisec for advice.