Requesting medical information about a deceased family member

Lisa Lapedota made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Health

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Department of Health,

I wish to access medical records of my deceased grandmother. The records are pertinent to an hereditary condition which concerns myself. I have not been able to have these records released despite having tried a number of times and have not been given a valid reason apart from 'privacy issues';. As she is now deceased, I fail to see how this can be a privacy issue given that it is information that I need for my own condition.

Please advise how I can gain access to this information from the Warragul Hospital in Victoria. I am desperate to know!


Lisa Lapedota

FOI, Department of Health

Dear Ms Lapedota

The Commonwealth Department of Health does not hold personal medical records. Generally where treatment or services have been provided by a State or Territory public medical service or hospital, a person may request access to their medical records under the Freedom of Information Act or Privacy Act relevant to that State or Territory. Details about how to request personal health records from a public State or Territory service or hospital can generally be found on their Health website.

As you have indicated, Warrugul Hospital, details on how to make an application to the Victorian Department of Health can be found at:

Where medical records are held by a privately owned medical or hospital service, you should contact that service directly about access to your personal records.

I hope this information will assist you in accessing your grandmother's medical records. The Department will consider your request below as withdrawn unless you advise us otherwise by 14 October 2015.

Kind regards

FOI Unit
Governance & Freedom of Information
Department of Health
Phone: (02) 6289 1666|
GPO Box 9848 Canberra ACT 2601

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Locutus Sum left an annotation ()

I can understand very much why you will want to know the medical records but I think that your request will probably be refused. You will maybe find it helpful to read a similar case that was reviewed by the Australian Information Commissioner in 2011: 'A' and Department of Health and Ageing [2011] AICmr 4 (15 June 2011).

TS left an annotation ()

There is a precedent to requesting medical records, read NSW case.
"A recent case considered by the Civil and Administrative Tribunal in NSW clarifies one circumstance where a family member can access the hospital records of a deceased person.

In this case, the grand-daughter of an elderly woman with dementia applied for access to her grandmother’s clinical notes, as she was concerned about the treatment provided prior to her death. She also said she was seeking closure following her grandmother’s death.

The application was made under NSW legislation that enables access to government information unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure. The hospital asserted there was an overriding public interest against disclosure because of confidentiality and privacy considerations.

The tribunal disagreed and found in favour of the grand-daughter. The tribunal noted the personal factors of the application which favoured disclosure including the close relationship the grand-daughter had with her grandmother and her desire to seek information about the circumstance of the death to help her to understand and to gain closure.

Based on this case in NSW, a representative of a deceased person can make a formal application for access to records held by government agencies, including public hospitals, under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW). Applications to private hospitals can be made under the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 (NSW)."