Common Sense Illinois Legislation Would Make It Easier for Families to Access Deceased’s Medical Records

Through our work with local families who were victims of Illinois medical mistakes, car accidents, nursing home abuse, and other tragedies, our Chicago personal injury attorneys are intimately familiar with the many bureaucratic hurdles facing families of those killed by other’s negligence. One of those problems involves collecting basic information about their loved one. Most of these problems are never comprehended by residents until they are in the situation themselves.

Fortunately, some logical lawmakers are working to ease the burden on many families caught in these paperwork nightmares. For example, Senate Bill 1694 is a bipartisan proposal spear-headed by the Illinois State Bar Association that would simply the current process involving the acquisition of medical records by family members of a loved one who has died. Under current rules, those family members having do go through an arduous process of “opening” the estate of the deceased in order to have access to this information. Per the terms of SB 1694, new procedures would be implemented to allow certain family members to access those records without opening the estate.

Specifically, the bill allows a surviving spouse to make a written request for copies of the deceased spouse’s medical records in certain circumstances. The request can be made if an executor has not been appointed by the estate or if there is no power of attorney and no previous record of written objection by the deceased. If there is no surviving spouse, others may use the same procedure to obtain the records including the deceased children, their parents, or siblings. In addition to changing these procedures, the bill also allows a principal to delegate authority to an agent via an Illinois Power of Attorney for Health Care which would allow them to access the principal’s medical records upon their death.

The bill recently passed both houses of the General Assembly, and it is now up to the Governor to sign it, veto it, or do nothing. Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys know that this improved process is a common sense reform that should be supported by those on all sides of the political spectrum. It is no surprise that the bill zoomed out of both chambers and was sponsored by bipartisan groups of both Democrats and Republicans.

From a legal perspective, this bill will help make it easier for deceased family members to produce the medical information necessary when involved in medical malpractice lawsuits, wrongful death cases, and similar measures. It is common knowledge that the legal process is time consuming. The beginning of a case to the end can take years, especially if the case goes to trial, is appealed, and/or advanced measures of financial collection must be taken. Often the lengthiest part of the process is known as “discovery” where information is collected by both sides in preparing their case. Any process that slows down the collection of the information-like complex measures needed to obtain medical records-adds to the time and expense of a case. Speeding up that process is always a good idea.

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