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Ohio Supreme Court to Hear Case on Patient Access to Medical Records

The Lancione Law Firm

What information must be in a patient’s medical record? The Ohio Supreme Court will soon decide a case on the matter.

Patients are afforded certain rights under the law. One of those rights is access to medical records kept by the hospital or doctor. However, a recent decision handed down by the Ohio Court of Appeals threw into confusion just what information a hospital must reveal to patients when sued for medical malpractice. The case arose when an Ohio patient died in 2012 while in the hospital after being placed on a cardiac monitor. He was found dead a week after entering the hospital with the leads to his cardiac monitor detached. It was not clear when the leads became detached and why no hospital staff reattached the monitor.

During discovery – the portion of a lawsuit where each side gathers documents and prepares for trial – the patient’s daughter asked the hospital for complete medical records, including monitoring strips of her father’s vital signs the morning he died. The hospital argued that this data was not part of the patient’s “permanent medical record” because the hospital did not keep this in its “medical records” department. Instead, the hospital placed the EKG information in its “risk management” department. The hospital argued that since it did not consider this information relevant to the patient’s case it did not have to produce it.

The trial court agreed with the hospital, as did the Ohio Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision. As the judge who disagreed with the decision noted, “I am concerned that the majority’s opinion could lead to the concealment, even though unintended, of medical records if a health care provider can self-define . . . . records it determines to send to its medical records department.” In other words, if hospitals can determine on their own what is and is not a medical record, it could lead to the destruction of evidence that would be relevant to medical malpractice lawsuits.

Supreme Court to Weigh in

The Supreme Court of Ohio has agreed to review this significant and controversial case in October and will soon hear oral arguments. A final decision on the issue will not come for some time.

Because the outcome could have a large influence on future medical malpractice cases in Ohio, numerous interested parties have submitted “friend of the court” briefs to argue on behalf of both sides in the case. The decision by the state’s highest court could have far-reaching consequences.

Why It Matters to Ohio Patients

Doctors are rightfully respected in society. However, doctors and hospitals are not perfect; they make mistakes, sometimes bad mistakes. Unfortunately, when hospital staff, doctors, and other medical professionals make mistakes, it can lead to tragic and severe consequences for patients. The law allows patients who suffered from medical negligence the ability to file a lawsuit in order to get help with additional medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages associated with medical negligence.

As this case demonstrates, however, bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit is not an easy thing to do. Bringing a successful medical malpractice case requires a knowledgeable attorney familiar with bringing claims against hospitals and doctors. Part of that experience is knowing how to obtain expert testimony by other medical professionals, patient records, and other information relevant and helpful to a patient’s claim.

At Lancione & Lancione, LLC, our attorneys have extensive experience helping patients and their families recover in the wake of serious, preventable medical injuries. If you or a loved one has suffered from medical negligence, contact our firm right away to discuss bringing a claim.

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