Access to Medical Records After Death

Written by j. johnson
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Access to Medical Records After Death
Death records can be accessed by following proper procedures. (Hospital Files image by PinkSony from

Medical records from family members, including death records, can be helpful when mapping out your medical history and determining your risk factors with your doctor. They can also be helpful when determining risk factors for your children. For example, some common genetic illnesses that can cause death include cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Knowing which conditions your family members suffered from can go a long way in prevention and treatments for you and your living loved ones.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Determine whether or not you can access the death records. You can access records if you're the deceased person's next-of-kin or you have permission from the next-of-kin. This is typically a spouse, child, parents, grandchild, sibling, niece or nephew, depending on who in the family is still living.

  2. 2

    Determine what type of death records you want to access. Information about the conditions surrounding the death, as well as an autopsy report, should be obtained from the hospital. A death certificate can be obtained from your state's office of vital records or the state where the person died. A death certificate often includes the name of the hospital where the person received treatment.

  3. 3

    Obtain a medical release form from the hospital that cared for the deceased person or from your state's office of vital records or the state where the person died. You will need a signature from the next-of-kin. If you are the next of kin, you may be asked to provide proof of your identity and relationship to the deceased person, such as a birth certificate if the person was your parent or child. Contact the hospital or state office directly to find out exactly what you need. Each one will have different procedures that need to be followed.

  4. 4

    Be prepared to pay a fee. A fee to obtain a death certificate is common. The fee to access medical records varies greatly by hospital and can get expensive if there are lots of records.

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