G.R. No. 179786 : July 24, 2013

FACTS: Josielene filed before the RTC a petition for the declaration of nullity of her marriage to Johnny, the dissolution of their conjugal partnership of gains, and the award of custody of their children to her. During the pre-trial conference, Josielene pre-marked the Philhealth Claim Form that Johnny attached to his answer as proof that he was forcibly confined at the rehabilitation unit of a hospital. Following upon this point, Josielene filed with the RTC a request for the issuance of a subpoena duces tecum addressed to Medical City, covering Johnny’s medical records when he was there confined. The request was accompanied by a  motion to “be allowed to submit in evidence” the records sought by subpoena duces tecum. Johny opposed the motion, arguing that the medical records were covered by physician-patient relationship. The RTC denied Josielene’s motion. On appeal, the CA also denied Josielene’s petition ruling that if courts were to allow the production of medical records, then patients would be left with no assurance that whatever relevant disclosures they may have made to their physicians would be kept confidential.

ISSUE: Whether or not CA erred in ruling that the trial court correctly denied the issuance of a subpoena duces tecum? No.

HELD: NO. The Supreme Court held that is 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 under Section 1, Rule 27 of the Rules of Civil procedure: Upon motion of any party showing good cause therefor, the court in which an action is pending may (a) order any party to produce and permit the inspection and copying or photographing, by or on behalf of the moving party, of any designated documents, papers, books, accounts, letters, photographs, objects or tangible things, not privileged, which constitute or contain evidence material to any matter involved in the action and which are in his possession, custody or control; or (b) order any party to permit entry upon designated land or other property in his possession or control for the purpose of inspecting, measuring, surveying, or photographing the property or any designated relevant object or operation thereon. The order shall specify the time, place and manner of making the inspection and taking copies and photographs, and may prescribe such terms and conditions as are just. But the above right to compel the production of documents has a limitation: the documents to be disclosed are “not privileged.” IN THIS CASE, 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.