What happens to medical records after a patient dies?

Medical records can play an important role in contentious cases that center around death or malpractice.

Electronic information has the potential to be around a lot longer than the physical body, a fact that we only seem to be coming to terms with now. Last year, Google released information about its "Inactive Account Manager" system, which is designed to work as a sort of pre-programmed "executor" of a person's digital will. This can include dictating what pieces of information or contact data gets deleted.

But in the world of health records, the issue of establishing the rules of access to important medical information is one that might require medical litigation support to be dealt with correctly. A Pennsylvania-based news source has reported on a recent case of potential medical malpractice that led to the death of a young medical student last year.

The Scranton Times-Tribune goes into the situation more thoroughly and notes that the Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center is butting heads with the Sidari family over whether this person's death was the fault of hospital performance or previous conditions that had affected Jennifer Sidari, like her exposure to sick patients while in Africa.

The source quotes from a press release made by the medical center in question, in which the Chief Legal Officer, Edward Zych, blamed the parents for not releasing their late daughter's health information.

"In order to examine and evaluate the events that led to her admission and caused her illness, sharing her medical records should be embraced by the plaintiffs, Jude Sidari and Matthew Casey rather than being hidden and sensationalizing the case," he said. "Symptoms do not occur in the abstract, they occur from a disease."

That last line is an important thing for all practitioners to remember, and more up to date records information can help in difficult battles like this.

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