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Updated Version of Illinois Health Records Law Signed By Governor

Medical records are obviously a crucial piece of evidence following any sort of passing that may have been related to negligence. That is particularly true in cases where caregiver negligence is in play, such as nursing home neglect or medical malpractice.

On one hand it is essential that these records be kept regularly and accurately. Falsified or incomplete records are a common problem. In addition, it is important for certain parties to have reasonable access to those records. Yet, it is sometimes surprisingly difficult to obtain the necessary information following the death. Each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm has had to work through the often cumbersome process with families trying only to get more information about what led to their loved one’s passing.

Fortunately, lawmakers recognize the problem and passed legislation to protect privacy rights while easing the basic process for certain individuals to obtain those records. The measure, Senate Bill 3171, was recently signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn. It was a bipartisan measure sponsored by Democratic Senator John Sullivan and Republican Representative Dan Brady. Because of the clear implications on the civil justice system it was also pushed by the Illinois State Bar Association.

The bill is actually a follow-up to laws passed by the body last year regarding the release of health records of a deceased individual. Essentially the law allows the executor of an estate of the individual who passed away who holds a power of attorney to receive the medical records. In addition, the executor can designate another to receive the records if necessary. If there is no executor and no one with a power of attorney, then the records can be released to a “personal representative” of the individual. There are specific requirements regarding who can be declared a personal representative–usually some close family member.

The main changes to the law from the former version involve alterations to stay in line with federal privacy guidelines. For example, the new law ensure that the requirements to be a personal representative are those required by the federal Health insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).

There was little to no disagreement on this measure. It was a unanimous vote and made in consultation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services along with the Illinois State Bar Association. It takes effect immediately.

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers know that these sorts of laws may seem to have little significance. However, they make a big difference in the lives of those working through the legal landscape following a loved one’s death. Obviously the aftermath of a passing–particularly one that was not expected–is incredibly difficult for the family. The last thing they need is frustrating administrative roadblocks to obtaining information about their loved one. These sorts of laws streamline that process while protecting patient privacy rights in a fair and efficient manner. Medical malpractice lawyers, nursing home neglect lawyers, and all those working on cases where easy access to medical records following a death is important undoubtedly applaud the legislature for acting quickly and effectively on this issue.

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