March 6, 2011

How to Obtain a Parent's Medical Records

Disclosure: This is from reading and research, and I have no legal training.

This is a topic I started back in November 2010 and you may review it here. Georgetown University maintains a list of states and the rights for patients in each state that may be in addition to your rights under HIPAA. There is a lot of information available on obtaining your own medical records or those of your minor child, but very little for a parent. The above site can answer many of the questions for you depending upon the state your parent(s) or in-law(s) reside in.

Some are going to get tired of my repeating this, but it is so important. Talk with your parent(s) while they are able to make legal decisions and prepare the way legally for their care. If you are the only child or the trusted family member, make sure that you have copies of any medical records they want you to have and that if you do not, make sure that they have legal documents in place so that you can obtain copies when and if necessary.

In general, make sure that you have a right to the information before asking, HIPAA and each state's rules are very restrictive when it comes to parents records. Without a durable medical power of attorney (DMPA), you have no legal rights to their past records. Some parents try to make them available and may have some of their records and will give them to you, but without a DMPA you will get nothing from the doctor or hospital.

Even with a DMPA they generally will and do deny any records not associated with the current treatment or reason for hospitalization. And generally they are within their legal rights. So if you suspect something in the past and would just like information, forget it and they are not required to give you information if you are on a fishing expedition. However, if an accident some years ago may have a bearing on what is happening now, you have a right to ask, but expect some resistance until the records surrounding are reviewed. If they have a relevance you will be more than likely allowed access, otherwise you will not.

This is when many lawsuits happen because children want information they have no legal right to, but are sure they do. Judges are very good at abiding by state and HIPAA rules and not allowing nosy children to go on fishing expeditions. A few go the other way because the judge finds information that doctors or hospitals don't want made available that are relevant.

So if you are the trusted son/daughter or relative, know your legal limitations and rights. If the attorney that drew up the DMPA is available, be sure to talk to the attorney if you have questions. Also, a surviving doctor may know of something that will help you in the search for prior records that may be relevant and applicable to what is happening now.

Most of the time the DMPA will give you legal rights to all current medical records and you will have the right to ask for copies. It is the prior records that you may have little or no legal rights to see or get copies.

Then if your parent(s) for whom you have the DMPA is deemed to be capable of managing their medical treatment, your rights stop then. This is again an area of lawsuits when the doctor or hospital does this to get you out of the picture against the wishes or suggestion of the parent(s). So make sure of your facts and save all documents that may have relevance. I am not saying doctors or hospitals are trying to hide something or have done anything wrong, but mistakes do happen.

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