Am I allowed access to my own medical records?

My family doctor just retired. I have recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I need access to my records to make a disability claim. How do I go about getting them? Do I have to pay for them?



Salmon Arm, BC

Under BC law, health care providers are required to keep a record of the medical care they provide you. The specific rules vary depending on the type of health care provider involved. Here are the rules applying to doctors

The information in your records belongs to you. But the physical records do not. They belong to whoever created them — the hospital, doctor, or other health care provider. So you’re entitled to receive a copy of the records, but not the original. 

In certain instances, a doctor can legally refuse to let you see your medical records. For example, if disclosing information could threaten the safety of another person, they must deny you access. Here, we have more on this, and on accessing medical records generally.

In most cases, health care providers will allow you to see the information in your medical records for free. However, providers are allowed to charge you the cost of producing the record — no profit allowed. (Hospitals and other public bodies, on the other hand, aren’t allowed to charge you for this.) Another option is asking if you can take a photo of the records.

The rules say that doctors must keep records for at least 16 years after they were made (or 16 years from the patient’s age of majority, whichever is later). During this time, the doctor is expected to ensure that patients can access their medical records. Once this time has passed, legally, the doctor doesn’t have to keep the records.

The rules say what a doctor must do with their medical practice records when they retire. Doctors have the option to transfer their records to another doctor, health care agency, or organization. Whatever they choose to do, they must tell the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC. 

If you’ve had no luck getting a copy of your records, contact the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC. If the doctor has transferred their records, the College should know their location. Their phone number is 1-800-461-3008. You can also contact the information & privacy commissioner for BC

Check out our resources on health care and medical records. These will help give you a baseline of your rights and how you might go about exercising them.

Michelle Stimac

Michelle Stimac

College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in November 2023

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