Am I permitted to release correspondence from a specialist which includes the disclaimer ‘Not for medico-legal purposes’ (or words of similar effect) if a patient requests a copy of their medical record?

The short answer is ‘yes’.

This correspondence forms part of the medical record. While the author retains copyright ownership of the content of the letter, in private practice the patient is entitled to access the information collected by the health practitioner under the privacy legislation.

The notation may however alert the practitioner to review the content of the letter to determine whether there is a legitimate reason under the privacy legislation to withhold access to that document, for example where:

  • The content of the document may pose a serious threat of harm to the patient or someone else (including the practitioner);
  • The content of the document adversely affects the privacy of a third party.

Unless there is a legitimate reason under the privacy legislation to restrict access to such a document then the practitioner is legally obliged to provide access irrespective of any disclaimers/notations in the correspondence.

Failure to provide the document could result in a complaint to the Privacy Commissioner.

If you have any concerns about the release of particular documents regarding a patient please contact the Claims and Legal Services department to discuss the matter with one of our solicitors.

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