<I>Q: If a patient requests their medical records and X-rays from a previous doctor be released to their new doctor permanently, can the doctor refuse to release them to the patient or the doctor? Who owns the records, the patient or the clinic?</I>
"This sounds like a simple question, but it's not," said Chris Lawson, assistant general counsel for KAMMCO, a medical malpractice insurance company affiliated with the Kansas Medical Society.
"Privacy rights and access to medical records raise some very complicated legal issues, but generally speaking, the courts have said the patient owns the information, the doctor owns the records," Lawson said.
Doctors are not required to share information with a patient if there is reason to believe the information would harm the patient's well-being. For example, if a test shows a patient has or may have a serious illness, and if the doctor believes the patient is unstable or suicidal, he or she does not have to tell the patient.
But if the patient's file does not include potentially harmful information, the doctor should authorize its release, Lawson said. If appropriate, the doctor may ask the patient or the receiving clinic to help with copying costs.