In Cooksey v. Landry, No. S14A0926 (Ga. Sup. Ct. June 30, 2014), the Georgia Supreme Court held that the psychiatrist-patient privilege remains after the death of the patient, preventing the production of information protected by that privilege. The Court held that the psychiatrist-patient privilege survives the death of the patient. The Court recognized that its ruling may make it more difficult for a party seeking to prove a psychiatrist malpractice claim, but noted that the inability to discover potential evidence following the proper allocation of the Rules of Evidence is not the same as having an incomplete legal remedy or no remedy at all.
The Court also stated that in addressing the production of psychiatrist records of a dead patient in the future, the trial court should perform an in-camera review of a psychiatrist's records to determine whether any non-privileged records or information exist, whether any waiver of the privilege has occurred, and then produce any non-privileged information.
Thus, in the future, a medical provider should not produce any psychiatric records after the death of a patient. The medical provider should object on the basis of the Cooksey v. Landry opinion. If a court action is filed to produce the records, the medical provider should only produce the records to the court for an in-camera inspection.
Richard G. Tisinger, Jr.