When a person in Illinois is filing a wrongful death lawsuit against a physician or medical center, the issue of “doctor-patient privilege” comes up. Doctor-patient privilege allows a person to have their medical information kept private unless they agree to share it. This means that a doctor cannot share medical information about a patient to others, unless that privilege has been waived by the patient.
Some people maintain that this privilege should be honored even after the death of the patient, while others maintain that the privilege is no longer necessary once the patient passes away. In the end, however, it becomes important when a person’s loved ones want to file a wrongful death lawsuit, and needs information about the deceased’s health or medical care.
In general, the doctor-patient privilege does not automatically cease if the patient passes away, nor is it absolute. It usually depends on state law. In some states, the deceased’s next of kin, personal representative or surviving spouse is permitted to issue a waiver of the privilege on behalf of the deceased patient. However, some states have laws that such a waiver only extends to sharing medical information with other medical professionals and facilities, rather than to lawyers. It is important that even if the privilege is waived, that only relevant information related to the case is disclosed.
In the end, if a person is a pursuing a wrongful death suit, and believes they need information that may be protected by the doctor-patient privilege, it might help to seek the advice of a wrongful death attorney. An attorney may be able to help their client obtain the information and evidence they need to pursue a wrongful death suit due to a missed diagnosis, a delay in diagnosis or a surgical error, so they can seek compensation for the damages they suffered due to their loved one’s death.
Source: FindLaw, “Wrongful Death Cases: Physician-Patient Privilege,” Accessed April 24, 2017