Accessing deceased family member medical info now easier

By on February 20, 2012

CHICAGO—Family members who have lost a loved one will now have easier access to the deceased’s medical records under a new Illinois law. Previously, access to medical records was mostly limited to an estate administrator or executor, which many individuals often fail to designate. Under these situations, family members faced difficulty gaining access to medical records.

Through the new law, a spouse can access medical records when an executor or estate administrator has not been designated. If there isn’t a surviving spouse, parents, an adult child or adult siblings can request records. To help patients and physicians, the Illinois State Medical Society has prepared a sample legal form to make available to family members seeking a deceased’s medical records.

“We supported this law and developed a simple resource for doctors to use because we understand the hassle grieving families face when trying to obtain medical records,” said Wayne V. Polek, M.D., ISMS president. “Sometimes when a new law comes about, there is confusion over who it applies to and what is required. Given the sensitivity surrounding a loved one’s death, we want to make sure physicians are aware of the legal change, who can access medical information and provide a tool to help families requesting information.”

The release of the ISMS form comes after the late November implementation of the new medical records law (PA 97-0623). Under the law, the deceased individual’s prior written objection to the release of medical information to family will remain in force after death.

ISMS physician members can access a sample medical records release form at www.isms.org.