Whether someone has a health issue which requires medical attention or is going to the doctor for their annual check-up, anything that is discussed with their physician has to be kept between them and their health care provider. Legally all physicians are required to uphold a doctor-patient confidentiality agreement, which is based around the concept that patients should never be concerned about seeking medical treatment out of fear that their private medical information will be disclosed to others without consent. A person’s health is a personal issue, particularly if they have specific health issues they would NOT feel comfortable discussing with anyone else. If a patient discovers the information they shared with their physician was mishandled or shared without their consent, this is a breach of the doctor-patient confidentiality agreement, and they may be entitled to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against that health care provider.
Once a doctor-patient relationship has been established, the physician CANNOT divulge any medical info without the consent of the patient. This is because the more information the physician has about the patient, the better they will be able to make an accurate diagnosis and provide the best possible care. If a patient is no longer being treated by the physician, the duty of confidentiality does not end there. It continues for as long as the patient lives, and even continues after the patient’s death.
When an alleged breach is the focal point of a lawsuit, there is an implied consent moving forward. If a patient files a personal injury claim, this may waive their right to confidentiality. In addition, if a family member or friend attends an appointment with the patient, they will likely be required to provide relevant information during testimony. Although it is unlikely that a patient’s health care professional will be able to share any of their medical information with an interested party without their consent, there are some exceptions that would allow the physician to divulge patient information, including the following:
- Physician is required to provide information to a public health official.
- Patient’s injuries are the part of a criminal investigation.
- Patient is diagnosed with an infectious communicable disease, such as HIV.
- The patient is at risk of harming themselves or others.
- There are potential health insurance complications.
There are sometimes where a physician inadvertently discloses patient information. For example, a physician may discuss case details with another health care provider for counsel. However, if this conversation takes place in a hallway or on an elevator, anywhere others can easily hear the conversation, this could qualify as an inadvertent breach because anytime a physician wants to discuss details of a case with a colleague, they should always have those conversations in a private.
It is highly recommended that patients who wish to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against their health care provider consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. A breach of a Doctor-Patient confidentiality agreement is a violation of your rights, and we will hold the negligent party liable for any injuries or emotional distress. Protecting your rights is our top priority. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer can thoroughly review the case and recommend the best legal course of action. To schedule a free consultation, call us today!
On October 2, the Georgia Supreme Court revived a lawsuit alleging that a sperm bank misrepresented its screening process for donors which lead to a couple purchasing the sperm from a donor who had unreported mental illness and a burglary conviction. Monday, the state supreme court ruled Wendy and Janet Norman could NOT sue for wrongful birth, but instead had a case based on the alleged wrongdoing by the sperm bank, Xytex Corp.
According to the Normans’ suit, the donor had lied about his mental health and criminal history. Xytex never asked him to verify his answers, supply his medical records or even asked him to provide identification. He also wrongly claimed to have an IQ of 160 and to be actively pursuing a PhD.
However, the donor actually pleaded guilty to burglary in 2005 and had arrests for trespassing, driving under the influence and disorderly conduct. He had been hospitalized for mental health treatment and had been diagnosed with psychotic schizophrenia, narcissistic personality disorder and significant grandiose delusions. He also had no college degree when he completed his sperm donor questionnaire, and even later provided the sperm bank with forged diplomas, claimed the Normans.
Xytex stated that it carefully screened donors for health issues, criminal history and family history, according to the lawsuit and maintained that its screening process was so exacting that fewer than 5% of candidates became donors.
When the Normans had a son conceived with the donor’s sperm, the child was born with a blood disorder inherited from the father. And now that he is older, he has suicidal and homicidal ideations and takes plenty anti-psychotic medications. The Normans sued grounds of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, breach of warranty, unfair business practices, false advertising and unjust enrichment.
An appeals court had barred the couple’s claims under a Georgia Supreme Court decision, Atlanta Obstetrics & Gynecology Group v. Abelson. The plaintiff in that case had alleged her doctor failed to inform her about a test during pregnancy that could have detected a chromos related disorder in her fetus. In the Abelson case, the court barred medical malpractice suit, saying that “life, even life with severe impairments, may (not) ever amount to a legal injury.”
The Georgia Supreme Court said Abelson does not preclude all of the Normans’ claims.
The Normans can NOT sue based on the theory that they wouldn’t have ever even purchased the donor’s sperm if Xytex had revealed his true background, the Georgia Supreme Court said.
But they could sue based on allegations that their reliance on Xytex’s representations led them to delay diagnosis or treatment for their son’s conditions, the state supreme court said. If one of Xytex’s employees encouraged the donor to falsify his background, the Normans may also be entitled to punitive damages, according to the opinion. They may also be able to recover the difference in price between the fair market value of the sperm they received and the sperm they were promised, and they may be entitled to an injunction preventing Xytex from continuing alleged deceptive practices.
The supreme court remanded for lower courts to determine which claims survive under its opinion. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Associated Press and the Georgia Recorder covered the decision. Ted Lavender, a lawyer for Xytex, commented in an email to the Associated Press. “If this case does move forward, Xytex is confident in the actual evidence that exists to refute the allegations,” he said.
Dealing with a case this sensitive requires a careful, dedicated lawyers hand. If you find yourself in need, call us.