Under current New Jersey law, doctors must keep medical records for seven years, and hospitals must retain medical records for 10 years following a patient’s discharge. Obviously some doctors and some hospitals retain patient records for much longer than that. In most instances, individuals are entitled to full access to their own medical records when such records exist; certain individuals (executor, administrator, or other person who has authority under applicable State or other law to act on behalf of the decedent or the decedent’s estate) may be granted access to records as well. These "personal representatives" may authorize certain uses and disclosures of, and access to, these records.
However, under the revised HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) other access to an individual's medical records, when those records are under the control of a "covered entity" (such an insurance company, a doctor, or a hospital), is prohibited until fifty years after their death. When those records are in the collection of a "non-covered entity" (such as an archival collection not associated with a "covered entity"), the fifty year rule does not apply.
Under New Jersey law (NJSA 30 :4-24.3) records pertaining to current or former residents of noncorrectional institutions receiving services for mental illness, tuberculosis, or developmental disabilities also remain confidential.
If a hospital is still in existence, you can try calling and speaking to someone in the Medical Records department about what records they have available. The main hospital number is available in the New Jersey Hospital Directory.
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