The HIPAA Privacy Rule recognizes that a deceased individual’s protected health information may be relevant to a family member’s health care. The Rule provides two ways for a surviving family member to obtain the protected health information of a deceased relative.
First, disclosures of protected health information for treatment purposes—even the treatment of another individual—do not require an authorization; thus, a covered entity may disclose a decedent’s protected health information, without authorization, to the health care provider who is treating the surviving relative.
Second, a covered entity must treat a deceased individual’s legally authorized executor or administrator, or a person who is otherwise legally authorized to act on the behalf of the deceased individual or his estate, as a personal representative with respect to protected health information relevant to such representation.
Therefore, if it is within the scope of such personal representative’s authority under other law, the Rule permits the personal representative to obtain the information or provide the appropriate authorization for its disclosure.