|Who owns patient records?|
Member Question: A client adopted a kitten from a local rescue group. He was required to sign paperwork stating that the adoption monies were non-refundable if the kitten was returned. As you can guess, the kitten was returned.
The rescue group called the office of the veterinarian who treated the kitten during its short-term adoption, seeking a copy of the kitten’s medical records. However, the client refused to give permission for the release of the medical records.
Are the records in question legally still the past owner’s records? Is the veterinarian obligated to follow the short-term adopter’s wishes and not release the records to the rescue organization that now owns the kitten?
NYSVMS: Medical records are specific to the owner of the animal as well as to the animal. The individual or organization that was the owner of the animal at the time it was examined or treated is always entitled to request a copy of the medical record, and they must give authorization for the release of the record to another party, even if that other party subsequently becomes the owner of the animal.
If the medical records in question were created for the former owner at the time he was the owner of the kitten, then he
can refuse permission for the records to be released to any other party; the records do not automatically transfer to another owner when ownership changes.
If the medical records in question were created for the rescue organization at the time it was the owner of the animal (either before the short-term adoption, or after the animal was returned to the rescue), a copy can be provided to the rescue organization. If the records for a particular animal have not been segregated by owner, and a single medical record exists for the kitten under different ownership, those records must be separated so that each record reflects just one owner for the purpose of determining who is entitled to copies of the record.
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