What Should Happen to Our Medical Records When We Die? image

April 3, 2019 12:00 PM
Lectures and Panels
Harvard Law School, Wasserstein Hall, Milstein East C (2036)
1585 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA

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Digital innovation is transforming health care, and the amount of digital health care data being generated will likely have increasing research utility over time. Despite the seemingly logical and inevitable application of health care data from deceased persons for research and health care both now and in the future, the issue of how best to manage posthumous medical records is currently unclear, including elements of resource governance, issues of law, and infrastructural challenges.

This presentation explores current issues surrounding how to manage the medical records of the dead, integrating evidence from the field of body donation to inform and guide the discussion on the utilisation of posthumous medical information. It also delivers results from a year-long study on posthumous health care data utility that explored the views of the general population to the use of posthumous medical records, which showed a centrally collated and Government-governed resource of posthumous health care data was almost universally supported, with varying caveats around how such a resource should be utilised.

This is a brown bag event. Attendees are welcome to bring their lunch.

This event is free and open to the public. RSVP now!


Dr. Jon Cornwall is a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Early Learning in Medicine, Otago Medical School, at the University of Otago (Dunedin, New Zealand). Originally trained as a physiotherapist and clinical anatomist, Jon works in medical education and has research interests in posthumous human assets, including the posthumous utility of bodies, organs, and health information in healthcare and education. He is a member of the Federative International Committee of Ethics in the Medical Humanities, the group that oversees ethical processes surrounding body donation for the International Federation of Association of Anatomists, and serves on the editorial board of several anatomy journals. 

The Digital Health @ Harvard series features speakers from Harvard as well as collaborators and colleagues from other institutions who research the intersection between health and digital technology. The series is cosponsored by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and the Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School. The goal of the series is to discuss ongoing research in this research area, share new developments, identify opportunities for collaboration, and explore the digital health ecosystem more generally


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