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Subpoena Duces Tecum

These are subpoenas for physical objects. In the context of personal injury litigation, they typically request the production of medical records, calendars, office diaries, X rays, and any other physical record that concerns the medical care of a specified person. The records are usually those of the plaintiff, but an attorney may issue a subpoena for the records of any person whose medical condition is an issue in the lawsuit. In some situations, such as toxic exposure litigation, the records of many patients may be subpoenaed. The attorney is not allowed to keep the subpoenaed records but may inspect them and make copies.

It is unusual for an attorney to issue a subpoena for records without first attempting to obtain them through informal means. Since subpoenas may be issued without the approval of the court, physicians should ensure that they are valid before releasing records by calling the issuing attorney and determining the circumstances of the case. In states that have established procedures for the release of medical records, it is appropriate to ask for a signed release for the records. If the attorney is requesting records for persons other than his or her client, the physician may want to ask his or her own attorney to investigate the validity of the request. In cases that involve records with special legal protection (such as patients in a substance abuse treatment program) it may be necessary to request that the court deny (quash) the subpoena or restrict access to the records. The court may order that all patient identifiers be removed, or that the records be given to the judge, rather than the requesting attorney.

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