March 27, 2008
The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.
I have received your letter in which you questioned your right to obtain medical records pertaining to a deceased person.
In this regard, first, the statute within the advisory jurisdiction of this office, the Freedom of Information Law, pertains to government agencies; private hospitals or medical facilities fall outside the coverage of that law.
Second, the New York statute dealing with access to patient records is §18 of the Public Health Law. In brief, that statute prohibits disclosure of medical records to all but “qualified persons.” Subdivision (1)(g) of §18 defines the phrase “qualified person” to mean:
“any properly identified subject, committee for an incompetent appointed pursuant to article seventy-eight of the mental hygiene law, or a parent of an infant, a guardian of an infant appointed pursuant to article seventeen of the surrogate’s court procedure act or other legally appointed guardian of an infant who may be entitled to request access to a clinical record pursuant to paragraph (c) of subdivision two of this section, or an attorney representing or acting on behalf of the subject or the subjects estate.”
If you are not a “qualified person”, I believe that the medical records of your interest would be exempt from disclosure. To obtain additional information regarding access to patient information, it is suggested that you contact:
Access to Patient Information Coordinator
NYS Department of Health
Office of Professional Medical Conduct
433 River Street, Suite 303
Troy, NY 12180
I hope that I have been of assistance.
Robert J. Freeman