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Disclosure of Medical Data to Relatives after the Patient’s Death: Recent Legal Developments with Respect to Relatives’ Entitlements in The Netherlands.

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In the Netherlands the physician is still bound to professional confidentiality after the patient’s death. However, in the legal doctrine and in case law some exceptions have been recognized, especially for circumstances where the relatives have a legitimate interest in the inspection of medical records of the deceased. Today developments as regards the Dutch proposal to new legislation on patients’ rights, notably the proposed insertion of a provision stipulating the conditions under which the relatives have a right of access to medical records of the deceased, give cause for renewed consideration of this issue related to legal protection after death. This article explores whether the proposed provision corresponds to the prevailing principles regarding disclosure of medical data after death. It is concluded that there is a need to reconsider the provision’s wording or to adhere to self-regulation of the Royal Dutch Medical Association in order to strike an appropriate balance between the various interests concerned.

Affiliations: 1: Dept. of Health, Ethics and Society, Maastricht University The Netherlands


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