Gaining access to medical records: a common challenge in medical malpractice litigation

Surgical procedures involve various risks. As we’ve pointed out in recent posts, surgeons can and do sometimes make mistakes. Sometimes these errors are serious and leave the patient with permanent health problems.

A recent example of this is the case of an Oak Park woman who went in for outpatient surgery for the removal of a scar. Within a week of having the surgery, the woman developed infections that refused to heal, which led to numerous surgeries to address the issue. Testing apparently showed that the infection was caused by a heat-resistant bacteria which, according to her attorneys, left the surgical instruments improperly sterilized. Unfortunately, the woman faces an uphill battle in proving this in her case.

One roadblock the woman faces in her case is gaining access to the information she needs to prove that it was improperly sterilized instruments which caused her infection. Administrators at the hospital where the surgery was performed have denied numerous requests to access her medical records. This has been allowed under a Michigan law which allows hospitals to keep confidential internal reports about patient care and Michigan law does not require physicians to inform patients about adverse events. Federal law also affords privacy for hospitals in such matter.

Gaining access to the information necessary to successfully pursue a medical malpractice claim is not always an easy matter. In many cases, attempting to prove malpractice without such information makes many attorneys unwilling to spend their time and efforts. As things stand, patients have to rely on finding a sympathetic attorney who understands the system and the laws, and who is willing to take a chance on the case. Finding such an attorney can be a challenge, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Regardless of the facts of a case, an experienced medical malpractice attorney will provide a patient with a fair assessment of the merits of their case and the risks and potential rewards of pursuing litigation. 

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