Medical Q&As

Confidentiality - deceased person's records?

My mother died in 1986. Is it possible to obtain any medical records about her, as I need to know some family history regarding her health?

The rules of confidentiality regarding your motherís medical records still apply today even though she died 16 years ago. Her medical records cannot be released to you, assuming that they still exist. Best practice guidelines suggest that records be kept for 10 years after a person dies so it is possible that your motherís records may have been shredded by now. However, assuming that the records still exist it would be perfectly reasonable to visit her GP and tell the doctor of your concerns. Although the doctor could not give you the record to peruse he or she might be in a position to confirm or refute certain information. For example if you were concerned about the possibility of a familial condition existing the doctor might find it possible to indicate if your mother had that particular condition or not, without elaborating about further details. On the other hand the doctor might feel unable to help you with your enquiries because of a very strict interpretation of the rules of confidentiality. In my experience these matters can usually be resolved satisfactorily through the application of common sense. Many doctors would find it possible to share information with you that was relevant to you and your family without disrespecting the rights of your deceased mother.