Should You Worry About Your Patient Records Being Altered After You File a Malpractice Suit?

The fear is common: You file a malpractice suit because you  believe there was negligence in your treatment that led to  injury, pain or trauma. Now, you’re afraid the doctor or  hospital is going to change your records to cover the errors in your diagnosis, medication or treatment.

This Malpractice Guide article discusses whether or not you should worry about your patient records being altered while fighting a malpractice lawsuit.

Has this ever happened? Of course it has. But is it common? Most malpractice attorneys do not believe that altering records is at all widespread in the medical community. There are many reasons  for this.

Why Altering Patient Records is Rare

First of all, altering patient records is a criminal offense in every state. If a physician, nurse or hospital administrator is shown to have altered records, they face the loss of their job and license in addition to fines and possible jail time. In most cases, these consequences are worse than losing a civil lawsuit  or settling out of court.

Secondly, it often requires the complicity of others to get away with altering records. Others likely know what truly happened in the diagnosis or treatment phase or your care, and any falsehood in the records will be uncovered by a good malpractice lawyer during a deposition or court testimony.

Thirdly, many records are still handwritten, and alterations in them are easy to spot. The fourth reason there is little fear of having your records altered is that copies of the originals are often sent to several different recipients. Once those copies are made, it’s very difficult to change them. If copies can be produced that contradict the records, it’s evidence that the originals were altered after the fact and will lead to criminal charges and summary loss of the malpractice lawsuit.

Finally, electronic records are often time-stamped, so changes to the records after they were originally made will be shown. This discourages altering records and makes it easy to spot when it has happened.

What to Do if You Believe your Records Have Been Altered

Discuss your concerns with your malpractice attorney. Be specific about what you believe has been altered. Tell your attorney who might have a copy of the records such as a specialist, your primary care physician or a physical therapist.  Your malpractice lawyer will then know how to uncover any potential alterations in your medical records and bring it to the light of the court.