Access to medical records of deceased relative

Khoo v South Western Sydney Local Health District [2015] NSWCATAD 183 saw an application by a person for the medical records of her deceased grandmother, created in the days leading up to her death. She had various concerns about the treatment given to her grandmother at the hospital and by the Ambulance Service of New South Wales.

The applicant was estranged from her grandmother and the deceased’s sister, who appears to have been the closest relative, did not consent to release of the records.

The Ambulance Service objected to the release of a patient record in circumstances where the patient’s nearest relative had not provided consent to access the patient’s records. The Local Health District appears to have taken a similar position.

After considering factors for and against disclosure, the Tribunal concluded at [82]:

In the present circumstances, I consider that the public interest against disclosure of the information is outweighed by the personal factors of the application and the public interest considerations in favour of disclosure which are outlined above. The personal factors of the application are, in this case, to be given substantial weight. As the granddaughter and former carer of Ms Goh, the applicant has an interest in gaining access to the records. Her motivations are to understand what caused her grandmother’s death, to investigate her suspicions of negligence and to gain a sense of closure. Whilst the Tribunal has not formed any view about whether there was in fact any negligence as alleged by the applicant, it is consistent with the public interests in favour of disclosure, set out above, that the applicant be given an opportunity to explore this possibility.

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