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Waiting for records

Have you ever heard of people fighting with hospitals for the medical records of family members. One such example is Rajesh Sekhri who had to literally fight with the Central Govt’s Ram Manohar Lohia hospital for almost five months for his dead wife’s medical records, reports Jaya Shroff Bhalla.

delhi Updated: Feb 12, 2009 13:16 IST
Jaya Shroff Bhalla

Have you ever heard of people fighting with hospitals for the medical records of family members — something that is well within their rights?

One such example is Rajesh Sekhri who had to literally fight with the Central government’s Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) hospital for almost five months for his dead wife’s medical records.

But this wait was not just about the number of months — it was a real test of patience as the hospital also asked the widower to prove his relationship with the dead before giving him the records — something he had the legitimate right to.

“Initially the hospital refused me the medical records. On July 25, 2008, 10 days after Sunita’s death I put in a formal application in the medical superintendent’s office when I was asked to submit legal documents proving my relationship.”

“All doctors who treated my wife knew me as I was beside her at the time of her death. But even then I submitted my wife’s death certificate bearing my name, our joint account details and voter’s identity, photographs as identity proof on August 12. Despite that the hospital took another three months to give me the records,” he said.

However the medical superintendent of RML, Dr N.K. Chaturvedi, said: “Records of a patient are highly confidential and cannot be handed over to anyone, especially when the patient has died.”

About the delay, he added: “We receive so many applications everyday, it takes time to reply.”

The issue of hospitals rebuffing medical records is also not unheard of in private hospitals.

Only recently, a patient Rajeev Bansal who damaged his legs and kidneys after negligent treatment at Gangaram hospital was refused his medical records. Suffering from deep vein thrombosis the patient was admitted and later operated upon in Gangaram hospital.

Later, when his condition deteriorated he was shifted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), but the hospital authorities were reluctant to hand over his files. The patient had to finally seek legal help in acquiring his files. The matter is now sub-judice hence Bansal abstained from commenting on the issue.

However, Dr A. Sampath Kumar, an eminent professor of cardiothoracic and vascular surgery at AIIMS in his book Patient’s Rights said: “A patient, husband or legal heir has a rights to all the patients records.”

Kumar in his book further said: “Patients’ rights are different from citizens’ rights. The latter have certain rights because they pay taxes. But for patients it is not about whether or not they are paying. It is about the relationship between two human beings. If the patient is submitting himself completely to the doctor, giving up his body to be cut open, isn’t it his right to be informed about it?”