View Full Version : Do I need to get permission?

09-05-2008, 06:29 AM
I want to include excerpts from my medical records in my memoir. Do I need to get permission from the doctors and staff people who wrote them? I do not plan on using their names - just quote what was written.

09-05-2008, 07:48 PM
You don't say what the memoir is about or what sort of relationship you have with the doctor and staff. If you had and still have a good relationship, this should be simple. My hunch is that your relationship may not be so good at this point, and what seems simple could become complicated with lots of layers of possibility.

Since you question intrigues me, I did what you may have done and Googled "who owns rights to medical records". Each of the dozen results I scanned gives patients the right of access to records, but none discuss what patients can do with those records. Perhaps the more interesting aspect of the results is that it is becoming increasingly unclear who actually "owns" them, and who has what rights. It's complicated as physicians are employed by practices, which may be large corporations. Insurance companies have claims. There are lots of fingers in this pie.

Here is a summary of the options as I see them:

1) the record is about you. You don't have to ask permission to share it for medical purposes. If there are no names, it seems reasonable to assume you can share it. All the privacy regulations are to protect you from having THEM share it! This is the reverse.

2) you could ask the doctor and explain what you are doing. Chances are, there won't be a problem. But ... you must be prepared for a "no."

3) you could just do it and deal with consequences later. Which could get costly.

4) you could ask an attorney. Which could get costly, since it appears there isn't clarity at any point about this matter.

5) you could just tell what it said without specifically quoting.

Perry Foster may have dealt with this matter in his memoir, HANDS ACROSS MY HEART. I can't recall if he's a member here or not, and I can't access the member list. You can find an e-mail address for him on PolkaDot banner.

Considering the fact that there isn't much clarity at the moment, especially if you are dealing with a large practice, I'd be inclined to "just do it" -- unless the entries are damning. If you are documenting what could be considered malpractice, that may be touchy, and it may be better to tell, not show.

09-05-2008, 07:58 PM
After posting the above, I tried one more Google approach: "I want to publish my medical record". I found one website that may be of interest to you: http://implants.clic.net/tony/Flap/08a.html.

09-06-2008, 12:41 AM
Thanks Ritergal,

You make a number of good points. I appreciate your input.

09-06-2008, 01:18 AM
I just found out online by going to the Medical Board of CA that the doctor or hospital owns the medical records. I can see or get copies but apparently I do not own them. It is still unclear to me whether or not I can publish exerpts.

It's very hard to find anything relevant by googling.

09-06-2008, 01:40 AM
Well, I just called the consumer information unit of the Medical Board and the person I spoke to didn't know either.

I think it's best I don't. Bummer, I have the records.

09-06-2008, 05:57 AM
I can't imagine why you couldn't use them. The only person, to my knowledge, who can object to publication of their contents is you. What basis do you see someone else having a right to complain? I think you are fine. ;)

09-06-2008, 07:30 AM
Hmmm. Well I would think that since the whole point of medical record privacy laws (like HIPAA) are to keep other people from abusing your medical records, if you choose to publish them (make them public) then that shouldn't be a problem. Right?

09-06-2008, 07:16 PM
Here's another angle. If you did suffer some atrocity of mis-diagnosis, the worst that could happen is some doctor will come after you for slander or defamation or some such thing. But wait! Doing that, going to court, would put that doctor in the spotlight. That would be further damage to his/her reputation/ego.

Anne Lamott's unforgettable adage from Bird By Bird comes to mind: "The best way to write about an old boyfriend without getting sued is to say he has a small penis."

The odds seem to favor you, especially if you are not naming names. Also, unless you have a huge bank account, what would the doc stand to gain besides bad publicity and the expense of filing suit?

Still, it's your call.

09-07-2008, 04:18 PM
Ritergal makes a good point - I think I would agree that the only real potential problem would be some kind of defamation. If, however, you merely print what is in your medical records, even defamation is not an issue. Only if you then say "Hey, look at this idiot doctor and what he stupidly said, the incompetent moron."
But as for the contents themselves, my position would be that that information is yours and only you can complain of it being made public.