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New Bill Passes Illinois General Assembly to Improve Access to Medical Records

When a loved one is killed because of Illinois nursing home neglect, family members typically experience a range of emotions. Of course, these losses are extremely difficult for the families involved. Once the dust settles and the relatives of the victims have time to assess the situation, many decide to visit with a Chicago nursing home neglect attorney to get a better idea of how the law might apply in their situation. As we have frequently explained, the system of accountability in the state actually relies upon families of neglect victims coming forward to demand accountability. It is a crucial way that the facilities that provide inadequate care are called out and held responsible.

When an Illinois nursing home neglect lawsuit is filed after the death of a family member, it generally includes a wrongful death claim. This is a specific type of legal claim related to the losses suffered by certain relatives of the victims because of their loved one’s passing. Obviously, when these suits are filed, it is important to obtain information about the specific cause of death of these individuals, which requires access to the victim’s medical records. Yet, under the current law in the state, it remains a drawn out process for surviving members to obtain these records. Right now family members must officially open an estate to obtain those records. This involves going to probate court and asking a judge to allow the record release.

The probate process is timely and unnecessarily inconvenient for those involved. That is why a new bill on the topic, which was passed by the Illinois General Assembly during its veto session last week, is a step in the right direction. The legislation, which was spearheaded by the Illinois State Bar Association, will allow certain family members to obtain those records in a more efficient way. The bill will allow a spouse of the deceased to file a written record to obtain the records and obtain them. If there is no surviving spouse, then the deceased children, parents, or siblings can also utilize the privilege. There are safeguards built into the legislation such that an individual can protect their medical records if they make a written request otherwise while they are still alive.

Our Illinois personal injury lawyers know that this is common sense bill that should be signed by the Governor. In many cases, family members are unsure about the cause of death of their loved one and other medical details about their care. They often become unnecessarily suspicious. Allowing easy access to these records would be a good step in ensuring transparency. Similarly, when misconduct is at the root of the problem, it is should not be difficult for family members to obtain these records as part of the accountability process. We encourage all those who support open access to this basic information to contact Governor Quinn and urge that he sign the bill. The Governor has two months from the date the measure is officially sent to his office to review it. He can then either sign it (making it law), amendatorily veto it (changing part of the measure), or issue an outright veto.

In Other News: Two of our companion blogs–The Illinois Medical Malpractice Blog and Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog–were nominated for inclusion as one of the Top 25 Tort Blogs of 2011. The award is part of the LexisNexis project which seeks to feature blogs that set the standard in certain practice areas and industries. The voting to narrow down the field is currently underway, and we would love to have your vote. All you have to do is add a comment at the end of the post about the Top 25 bogs.

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