There's a big reason why you should always get a copy of your medical records before leaving the hospital

My legal nurse and I spent a lot of time looking at my clients’ medical records. I guess that’s expected, though, because I’m a Houston, Texas medical malpractice attorney.

In fact, when a potential new client contacts Painter Law Firm about a medical negligence case, we always ask them to bring any medical records that they have with them. Although we typically order complete sets of records from hospitals and physicians, once we start representing a client, there is still an important reason why we like to see the records that were provided directly to our clients.

What does “all” mean”?

When it comes to requesting medical records, many hospitals don’t think that “all” means all. I’ve met with many clients who requested a copy of all of the records, but only got a fraction of them.

When our office requests records, we make sure that the hospital understands that we mean every single record when we ask for “all” records. Even with that clarity, there are still sometimes problems. That’s why we carefully review the records once we receive them.

Get your records before you leave the hospital

Years ago, I handled a significant medical malpractice case against Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, in the Texas Medical Center. I was hired to represent my clients at a medical futility proceeding. The hospital was convening a committee to determine whether to continue treating their teenage daughter.

I asked my clients to get a complete copy of the medical records and the hospital gave them thousands of printed pages. We ended up successfully having the patient transferred to Texas Children’s Hospital, so the threatened committee meeting turned out to be pretty much a non-issue. Still, those medical records turned out to be very valuable.

Months later, when we started investigating the medical malpractice case against Memorial Hermann, Painter Law Firm ordered a complete set of all the medical records. When we compared this new set with what had been provided to my clients when their daughter was still in the hospital, there was a difference of hundreds of pages.

When we brought it to the attention of the Memorial Hermann attorneys, they produced yet another set of medical records that didn’t match the page count of either prior set.

It’s really hard to say what led to this confusion over what should really be a straightforward request. The hospital’s explanation was that they had converted to an electronic medical record system—pretty much every hospital has done so by now—and the discrepancy was a result of printing those electronic records.

In some cases, my clients have suspected that hospitals or doctors were deliberately holding back some records. That’s hard to prove but is certainly a possibility.

Your best bet of being confident that you have a complete set of your medical records is to request them before leaving the hospital. That goes for your medical records as well as a CD with any radiology images.

In my experience, many hospitals will provide these materials to patients free of charge, while they’re still in the hospital. Afterward, there may be a charge. Be sure to ask for them under the federal HITECH Act, though, and those charges will probably amount to $6.50.

Missing key records

I’m working on another case now involving a hospital in suburban Harris County, Texas. It involves a piece of gauze being left in the patient’s abdomen after a gallbladder surgery. The patient had no idea it was there for two years, until she started having abdominal pain and went to the hospital. They found the retained gauze had a festering infection around it. It caused her a lot of problems.

The standard of care requires healthcare providers to send materials like this to a pathologist for examination. The pathologist, in turn, will issue a report that becomes a part of the patient’s hospital medical record.

When our office ordered all of the patient’s medical records from the hospital, we noticed that there was no pathology report concerning the gauze.

Fortunately, our clients had obtained some limited records from the hospital before the patient was discharged. Those documents included the mysteriously-missing pathology report. This was an important document for us to have in reviewing this medical malpractice case with medical experts.

My take-home message for you today is to always, always, always ask for a complete set of your medical records before leaving the hospital.

We are here to help

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by plastic or cosmetic surgical care, then the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, are here to help. Click here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form or call us at 281-580-8800.

All consultations are free and, because we only represent clients on a contingency fee, you will owe us nothing unless we win your case. We handle cases in the Houston area and all over Texas. We are currently working on medical malpractice lawsuits in Houston, The Woodlands, Sugar Land, Conroe, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Bryan/College Station, and Waco.


Robert Painter is a medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals, physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare providers. A member of the board of directors of the Houston Bar Association, he was honored, in 2018, by H Texas as one of Houston’s top lawyers. In May 2018, the Better Business Bureau recognized Painter Law Firm PLLC with its Award of Distinction.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.