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Chan vs. Chan Case Digest


Facts:

Petitioner wife filed against respondent husband a petition for the declaration of nullity of marriage, with the dissolution of their conjugal partnership of gains, and the award of custody of their children to her, claiming that respondent husband failed to care for and support his family and that a psychiatrist diagnosed him as mentally deficient due to incessant drinking and excessive use of prohibited drugs. 

Respondent husband claims that it was the wife who failed in her duties. And that he initially agreed to marriage counseling to save their marriage, but upon arriving at the hospital, two men forcibly held him by both arms while another gave him an injection. He attached a Philhealth Claim Form to his answer as proof that he was forcibly confined at the rehabilitation unit of a hospital. However, that same form carried a physician's handwritten note that the husband suffered from methamphetamine and alcohol abuse. 

Based on the physician's handwritten statement, petitioner wife requested for the issuance of a subpoena duces tecum addressed to Medical City, for the production of the Husband's medical records. The husband opposed, arguing that the medical records were covered by physician-patient privilege. The request of the wife was denied by the trial court. CA affirmed.


Issue:

Did the CA erred in ruling that the trial court correctly denied the issuance of a subpoena duces tecum covering the husband's hospital records on the ground that these are covered by the privileged character of the physician-patient communication?


Held:

No. The issuance of a subpoena duces tecum is premature. Petitioner wife made the request before trial started. She will have to wait for trial to begin before making a request for the issuance of a subpoena duces tecum covering her husband's hospital records. It is when those records are produced for examination at the trial, that the husband may opt to object, not just to their admission in evidence, but more so to their disclosure.

It is of course possible to treat Josielene’s motion for the issuance of a subpoena duces tecum covering the hospital records as a motion for production of documents, a discovery procedure available to a litigant prior to trial. Section 1, Rule 27 of the Rules of Civil Procedure provides: x x x
But the above right to compel the production of documents has a limitation: the documents to be disclosed are “not privileged.”

Petitioner wife, of course, claims that the hospital records subject of this case are not privileged since it is the “testimonial” evidence of the physician that may be regarded as privileged. Section 24(c) of Rule 130 states that the physician “cannot in a civil case, without the consent of the patient, be examined” regarding their professional conversation. The privilege, according to her, does not cover the hospital records, but only the examination of the physician at the trial.

To allow, however, the disclosure during discovery procedure of the hospital records—the results of tests that the physician ordered, the diagnosis of the patient’s illness, and the advice or treatment he gave him— would be to allow access to evidence that is inadmissible without the patient’s consent. Physician memorializes all these information in the patient’s records. Disclosing them would be the equivalent of compelling the physician to testify on privileged matters he gained while dealing with the patient, without the latter’s prior consent. (Chan vs. Chan, G.R. No. 179786, July 24, 2013)

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