Double Indignity; You Can't See Your Medical Records - but Everyone Else Can

By Schrader, Esther | The Washington Monthly, October 1986 | Go to article overview

Double Indignity; You Can't See Your Medical Records - but Everyone Else Can


Schrader, Esther, The Washington Monthly


DOUBLE INDIGNITY

Ed Mulligan set up his picket in front of Community-General Hospital in Syracuse, New York, in August 1976. Community-General had seen pickets before, but this one was different. Mulligan wasn't demanding higher wages or making a political statement. He wanted the hospital to give him something it had denied him for more than three years: a copy of his medical records.

After four years of illness and two operations, the 71-year-old cancer victim had requested a copy of his records from Community-General. When the hospital denied him access to all but the results of a few tests, Mulligan filed a $440,000 lawsuit. Since New York does not require hospitals to release medical records to patients, his case was thrown out of court. So Mulligan took matters into his own hands. Carrying a sign that read, "This Hospital has Something to Hide,' Mulligan picketed Community-General for several weeks. He succeeded in getting the hospital's attention, but only enough to cause it to sue him for creating a nuisance. Only after the local media did stories on Mulligan's picket did the hospital allow him to see a laundered version of his records, a pyrrhic victory which, after three years of time, money, and frustration, was all Mulligan could hope for.

Mulligan's persistence is unusual, but his problem is not. In dozens of states, patients are denied the critical, personal details in their medical records. Yet insurance companies, law-enforcement officials, medical professionals, intelligence agencies, and others have easy access to these records--usually without the patients' knowledge. As a result of this injustice, some people have been denied jobs, demoted, or given inadequate medical care. Worse, these actions have been taken on the basis of medical records that-- without any input from the patient--are often misleading and sometimes inaccurate.

Nevertheless, the debate over access to medical records has received little media attention. Moreover, legislative proposals to give patients access to their records have lost in all but 14 states. Much of the opposition has come from doctors who have spent a lot of time and money to keep their patients in the dark.

Insane system

Pamela Abbott was 20 years old when she entered Bennett Hospital in Plantation, Florida, to have a benign tumor removed from her bronchial tube. The operation required two surgeons and an anesthesiologist to remove the growth and keep oxygen flowing to her lungs. At some point during the operation Abbott went into cardiac arrest. By the time the medical team could react, her brain was permanently damaged. "The best we could determine,' says David Kahn, the lawyer who represented the family in its malpractice suit, "is that for fome reason the tube that was put down her throat to her lungs was blowing oxygen not into her lungs, but into the operating room.'

None of this, however, is reflected in the record of the operation. While it is noted that the patient was in trouble, there is no explanation for why Abbott's heart stopped. A section of the report titled "Remarks' also says nothing, and Abbott's post-operative status is noted, amazingly, as "satisfactory.' Eleven days after the operation, she died.

Abbott's parents requested her medical records. The hospital refused their request, the family sued, and after two years of litigation the Abbotts accepted a $450,000 settlement from the surgeons involved. But they never got a look at their daughter's complete medical records. When the hospital released the records after Kahn obtained a subpoena for them, 90 percent of Pamela Abbott's X-rays, and all of her brain wave reports were missing.

The Abbotts were lucky to get that much. Florida is one of 36 states where physicians are obligated to supply a patient's medical records only to another treating physician. Though the vast majority of doctors probably keep accurate records, many patients suffer hardship needlessly because of errors they could easily correct if they had access to their files. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Double Indignity; You Can't See Your Medical Records - but Everyone Else Can
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.