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Q: Can family members of a deceased patient obtain the medical records of the deceased if it is relevant to their own plan of care and family history?
A: Yes. The HIPAA Privacy Rule allows covered entities (CE) to disclose a deceased person’s PHI to family members and others involved in the person’s care or payment for care prior to his death, unless doing so is inconsistent with any prior expressed preference of the deceased person that was known to the CE. Information released to these individuals should be limited to the minimum necessary. If a complete copy of the patient’s record is requested, obtain written authorization from the executor of the deceased person’s estate or his next of kin, as prescribed by state law.
Editor’s note: Mary Brandt, MBA, RHIA, CHE, CHPS, answered this question for HCPro’s Briefings on HIPAA .  This information does not constitute legal advice. Consult legal counsel for answers to specific privacy and security questions.