A medical records subpoena is an order to produce medical records so that they can be used as evidence in court or in an investigation associated with a trial. Medical records can be subpoenaed in both civil and criminal cases, and there are some strict rules about when they can be ordered and released. These rules are designed to protect the confidentiality of such records while still providing a mechanism for examining them when it is necessary. Patients should remember that their records can be subject to subpoena and they will not necessarily be notified when their records are subpoenaed and released.
A lawyer on either side of a case can file a subpoena for medical records. The document must be directed at the person who controls a person's medical records, and it must be detailed in nature, naming the patient and providing the specific records sought under subpoena. When the order is received, the recipient has several options.
One option is to comply with the medical records subpoena and turn the requested documents over. Once surrendered, the documents are kept in a secured environment and examined only by the legal team. They may be entered into court as evidence and offered to the jury for inspection if they contain information that is relevant to arguments being made in the case.
Another option is to fight the subpoena. This can be done in several different ways. If a medical practitioner is working with one side in a case and opposing counsel files a medical records subpoena, the attorney who is working with the practitioner can file a motion to quash the subpoena. The judge will review the motion and rule on whether or not the records should be released, based on relevancy and other arguments. Physicians may fight release of records because they are concerned about confidentiality or entries in a record that could be used against someone in ways that are not relevant.
It is also possible to retain legal counsel to assist with responding to a subpoena. When a medical records subpoena is received and the recipient does not want to release the records, the recipient's attorney may be able to fight the release or negotiate an agreement for release of part of the records. It is important to note that simply ignoring a subpoena is not advised, as it can result in being fined and potentially jailed for contempt of court.