Accessing your Medical Records
Your medical record at a hospital will contain a history of any treatment you have had there: it may contain results of laboratory tests, x-ray results and any correspondence relating to your medical care.
Under the Freedom of Information Act 1997, you have a right to obtain information held about you by public bodies – and this includes publicly funded hospitals. If you want to view your medical records held by a public hospital, you can ask the relevant hospital department directly, or you may have to apply to the hospital’s Freedom of Information department/officer.
There may be some cases where access to information is not granted for a particular reason, for instance, if disclosing psychiatric records to a patient who is mentally ill could be detrimental to their wellbeing. In these cases, the person may request that their records are released to an appropriate health professional.
Information regarding your illness is confidential. Without your permission it will not be given to anyone, except those involved in your treatment and your own General Practitioner.
There are some circumstances in which a patient’s medical records may be disclosed without their consent – for instance, if a court requires them, or if it is considered to be in the patient’s best interests.
If you are going to have surgery, or some other type of procedure, you will be asked to sign a consent form. You are entitled to receive sufficient information about the proposed surgery/procedure, the possible alternatives and the substantial risks, in order that you can make an informed balanced decision.
Read the consent form carefully before you sign it, and ask questions if there is something you do not understand. Parents or guardians must sign consent forms for children under the age of 16 years.
Treatment can only be given without informed consent in cases where the patient lacks the capacity to give or withhold consent, and where a qualified doctor determines that treatment is urgently necessary in order to prevent harm.
The Patient’s Charter was introduced in Ireland in 1994. It outlines the rights of the hospital patient. As well as the issues detailed above, key points covered by the charter include:
- Right to be admitted immediately to hospital in a medical emergency (and otherwise be placed on a waiting list)
- Right to be treated in a courteous manner at all times, by all members of hospital staff
- Right to receive visits from relatives and friends – including children
- Right to be treated with respect for your religious and philosophical beliefs
- Right to your privacy being respected
- Right to be informed of the consultant under whose care you are being placed; of the nature of your illness in a language you can fully understand; of the results of any tests/x-rays etc; of your proposed treatment, including expected benefits and possible side-effects; and of alternative forms of treatment.
- Right to complain about any aspect of the hospital service, to have the complaint investigated and be informed of the outcome as soon as possible.