Accessing Deceased Patient Records—FAQ

Patients retain the right to keep their medical records private even after death. The laws surrounding just who has a legal right to view those records can lead to confusing and frustrating situations.

But new rules implemented through the HITECH Act’s HIPAA moficiation final rule have changed the rights of deceased patients and their loved ones to health information.

Below are frequently asked questions, recently updated to reflect the HITECH Act’s changes, on accessing a deceased patient’s medical records.

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OCR Proposes Change in Disclosure of Deceased Patient Records

A small provision in the recently released draft modifications to the HIPAA privacy rule could have a big impact for families and caregivers seeking the health records of deceased patients. Section 164.510(b) of the proposed regulation would allow covered entities to disclose protected health information to family members and others who were involved in an individual’s care or payment for care, regardless of whether the patient (or...

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Who Has Rights to a Deceased Patient’s Records?

[Editor’s note, July 2010: The Office for Civil Rights has proposed modifications to HIPAA that would ease the release of deceased patient records.] A son calls the HIM department and requests his deceased father’s medical records. Shortly afterward, the man’s wife requests the records, also. Then a man calls identifying himself as the executor of the estate. Who is authorized to access the records? Determining...

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