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Do patients have the right to record doctor's exams?

One activity that has some doctors on the defensive is their patients' requests to record the audio of their examinations and consultations. Many physicians flat out refuse these requests, while others may consent but warily. They wonder if they aren't setting themselves up for future malpractice actions.

Patients may wish to record their physician consultations for many reasons. Sometimes they are nervous and don't remember important advice and instructions. Others may want to review the conversation later with their partner or other family member. Those being diagnosed with serious illnesses may be in a kind of shock and need time to process the diagnosis in order to comprehend what they need to do.

Almost certainly litigiousness is low on the totem pole of reasons for requesting to record the encounter, yet doctors are far from embracing of the concept. Some even appear to fear secret patient recordings done without their knowledge or permission.

However, Florida patients who wish to record conversations with their physicians must first get their permission. Florida law is very clear on this issue. The state has "two-party consent" laws in place that make it a criminal act to record or intercept any "wire, oral, or electronic communication" unless all parties consent to the recording. Violators can face criminal prosecution in addition to civil damages by any injured parties.

Yet some of the doctors who have agreed to recorded consultations believe that their willingness can increase their patients' trust in them. It can also cause doctors to err on the side of caution and make sure that their knowledge is up-to-date and their advice spot-on.

From a patient's perspective, this is definitely a good thing. Some doctors consider how the potential benefits to their patients outweigh the negatives they could face and grant permission.

Whether a request is granted or not, having a recording of a doctor's exam is not necessary in order to pursue a successful malpractice claim against a negligent health care provider.

Source: The Washington Post, "Patients press the ‘record’ button, making doctors squirm," Christie Aschwanden, accessed Oct. 16, 2015

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