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Police want medical records

2One of our patients died in an accident and the police have phoned to inform us they will collect the complete medical records before the Home Office pathologist performs the autopsy. We are not sure if the next of kin was involved in the accident, but in any case do not want to trouble her at this time. Should we release them?

The Home Office pathologist may legally require you to release all the medical records but the request should come directly from him, not the police. If the pathologist wishes the police to collect the records on his behalf then he may authorise them to do so.

Access to the medical records of a dead patient is governed by the Access to Health Records Act. Unless required to do so by a court or coroner's order, you must not disclose any confidential medical data about a dead patient unless you have the valid consent of the next of kin.

You must not disclose any information to the next of kin that was provided by the patient on the strict understanding that it would never be revealed to a third party. If the medical records contain any data that would breach the confidentiality of a third party this must also be withheld.

Dr Christine Dewbury, Wessex LMCs

Neither Pulse nor Wessex LMCs can accept any legal liability in respect of the answers given. Readers should seek independent advice before acting on the information concerned.

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