Health Information Management

Are coroners and medical examiners entitled to receive PHI?

HIM-HIPAA Insider, March 28, 2003

Q: Are coroners and medical examiners entitled to receive PHI?

A: A covered entity may disclose protected health information (PHI) without authorization to a coroner or medical examiner for the purpose of identifying a deceased person, determining a cause of death, or fulfilling other duties as authorized by law.

Covered entities are not required to remove information about persons other than the patient before disclosing the record.

According to HHS, coroners and medical examiners sometimes need psychotherapy notes to determine cause of death, such as in cases where suicide is suspected. So, the privacy rule permits coroners or medical examiners to obtain all PHI necessary to determine an individual's cause of death, including psychotherapy notes, without any consents or authorizations.

The rule makes it clear that where a hospital performs the duties of a coroner or medical examiner, the hospital's on-staff coroners can use PHI while conducting post-mortem investigations, and other hospital staff can analyze information associated with these investigations, for example, as part of the process of determining the cause of death.

A disclosure to a coroner or medical examiner should be included in an accounting of disclosures.

Editor's note: Brought to you by attorneys Marty Baxter and Gretchen McBeath at Bricker and Eckler, LLP ( and The Quality Management Consulting Group, Ltd. ( E-mail: or

    Briefings on APCs
  • Briefings on APCs

    Worried about the complexities of the new rules under OPPS and APCs? Briefings on APCs helps you understand the new rules...

  • HIM Briefings

    Guiding Health Information Management professionals through the continuously changing field of medical records and toward a...

  • Briefings on Coding Compliance Strategies

    Submitting improper Medicare documentation can lead to denial of fees, payback, fines, and increased diligence from payers...

  • Briefings on HIPAA

    How can you minimize the impact of HIPAA? Subscribe to Briefings on HIPAA, your health information management resource for...

  • APCs Insider

    This HTML-based e-mail newsletter provides weekly tips and advice on the new ambulatory payment classifications regulations...

Most Popular