Patient/physician privilege protects a patient’s privacy when it comes to medical records, and it can become a significant issue in a wrongful death case. There’s much debate over privacy of a deceased person’s records; while some people believe privacy should continue after death, others do not, especially if continued privilege keeps a person from defending themselves in a lawsuit. Here, readers can learn more about patient/physician privilege and how it can affect a wrongful death case.
Patient/Physician Privilege Explained
The privilege is the right to medical privacy; that is to say, under state and federal law, medical patients have the right to not have their sensitive information shared without their permission. Generally, unless the privilege has been waived, a doctor or hospital isn’t allowed to disclose information obtained during a procedure. The privilege only covers private information (that which isn’t publicly known), and there are exceptions, such as when a wrongful death attorney in Spokane Valley, WA gets the information through a court order.
Waiving the Privilege
The fact of a person’s death does not dissolve the privilege between the person and their doctor, nor does it make the privilege absolute. Some states’ laws provide that a person’s representative, next of kin or spouse can waive the privilege, but these laws are often disputed by medical professionals who are reluctant to turn records over to lawyers. Some states’ laws require disclosure only to hospitals and physicians, and don’t make provisions for attorney disclosure.
In most cases, a decedent’s personal representative must be chosen before records can be secured. While the patient/physician privilege is waived during a wrongful death case, both sides must be careful not to overstep their bounds and reveal information that’s irrelevant to the case, or that which would tarnish the decedent’s memory.
Is the Complete Record Available After a Waiver of Privilege?
There are two types of patient/physician privilege: psychiatric and medical. Unless the legal action is claiming damages above those associated with an injury, psychiatric privilege can’t be breached. For instance, if someone dies in a car crash and their spouse sues for wrongful death, the decedent’s psychological counseling results cannot be made available to the court. States’ policies differ, and clients should visit Jcooney.com to talk to a wrongful death attorney in Spokane Valley, WA to learn more about how Washington’s laws can affect the case.
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