Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Dead serious

I visited my doctor's surgery today. No it wasn't a social call, there was a medical reason for my excursion.

Due to some daft mix-up at reception I spent much longer in the waiting room than is normal for this practice.

While I was there, I tried to fall asleep but when that failed to work my mind started to wander through all things medical.

I started contemplating medical records. To my, admittedly limited, knowledge medical records are confidential. Now I think that means that only I and medical staff are able to see them. I also think that means that when I die, after a period of six years after the last entry or three years after my death, my records will be destroyed.

I'm sort of happy with this in principle because, even though I don't actually think there's anything I would want to hide, I understand that people should be able to have faith in confidentiality beyond death.

But if it would help them, I'd like my children to have access to my records after I've died. There could be useful information in there. There might not be.

I wondered whether I could bequeath access to my my medical records. This is tricky because strictly speaking they don't belong to me. But if I were alive I could request a copy. If I died tomorrow I wouldn't have got around to it. If I die in 20 years time I still won't have got around to it. So if I write something in my will that says my children can access my file then would that work?

Let's face it the first x years would be written in medical illegible scrawl so would be next to useless.

I think the thing we should take from this is that receptionists should do their job properly and, if they do, patients won't have the time to contemplate this sort of moral question.

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