Rights of a surviving spouse

August 5, 2005

The spouse of a deceased patient has asked me for his medical information. As the administrator of his estate, does she have the right to it under HIPAA?

Q: The spouse of a deceased patient has asked me for his medical information. As the administrator of his estate, does she have the right to it under HIPAA?

A: Yes, the surviving spouse does have this right. If, under state law, an executor, administrator, or other person has been granted the authority to act on behalf of a deceased individual or his estate, a physician must treat that person as the patient's "personal representative." As such, the spouse has the same right under HIPAA to access her husband's medical information as he had when he was alive.