FALSIFICATION OF MEDICAL RECORDS
Occasionally, and more frequently than one might expect, my office encounters the issue of possible falsification of medical records while handling personal injury, wrongful death, and medical negligence cases. Technically, falsifying medical records is a crime which involves altering, changing, or modifying a document for the purpose of deceiving another person. Falsifying medical records is not necessarily grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit, but may be grounds for an independent civil action for fraudulent concealment or spoliation of evidence.
A recent egregious example in my office involved a primary care physician providing one set of medical records to the referred specialist, then “doctoring” his own set of records to add pertinent facts or information more favorable to his consultation. Clearly, two sets of records were produced by the physician in the legal action.
The medical records in any legal matter are absolutely necessary to establish not only the medical care and treatment provided, but also for use in legal proceedings. Alteration or falsifying of a medical record has serious consequences, criminally, civilly, and affects the credibility of the practitioner, subjecting the individual to aggressive cross-examination by attorneys, or ridicule by the trier of fact, whether judge, jury or arbitrator. Evidence of falsification of medical records in a case of medical negligence can be a tremendous tool to obtain a settlement which might not otherwise have been available.
If you believe medical records have been altered, are incomplete, inaccurate, or purposely falsified, methods exist to remedy the original record(s), including clearly labeling the changes to avoid the appearance of impropriety or crime. Take the time to request your medical records if you have questions as to the correctness of the records. Bring any issues or discrepancies to the attention of the physician or health care provider for your benefit!