Medical records are the property of those who prepare them (medical professionals) and not the property of those about whom they are concerned (patients). However, patients have a privacy right in the information contained in the records. These two interests may or may not conflict when it comes to releasing medical records to outside or third parties, who may also have another interest at stake. Once these basic and often competing interests are separated and assessed, it becomes easier to understand the issues that may surround the right to request, view, copy, or protect medical records and medical information.
Although medical records belong to the medical professionals/entities who create or prepare them, patients generally have a right to review them, demand copies of them, and to demand their confidentiality, i.e., prohibit release of information contained in them (with limited and specific exceptions). Where does a patient get the authority to control the release of documents that belong to others? The patient’s rights are dependent upon who created the documents, who wants to view them, and why their release is warranted.