Ruling Upholding HIPAA Not Disturbed

South Carolina Med. Ass'n v. Thompson, 327 F.3d 346 (4th Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 124 S. Ct. 464 (2003)

The Supreme Court declined to review a ruling by the Fourth Circuit that upheld the constitutionality of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and regulations promulgated pursuant to it.  The South Carolina Medical Association had challenged the statute and its regulations as transferring too much legislative authority in the medical privacy arena to the Department of Health and Human Services...

Found in DMHL Volume 23 Issue 1

Peer Review Records Must Be Given to P&A Investigating Possible Incidents of Abuse and Neglect Notwithstanding a State Law That Prohibits Their Disclosure

Conn. Office of Prot. & Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities v. Kirk, 354 F. Supp. 2d 196 (D. Conn. 2005)

Congress enacted in 1986 the Protection and Advocacy for Mentally Ill Individuals Act (PAMll) because of concerns that (1) individuals with a mental illness are vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and serious injury and (2) state systems for monitoring the rights of these individuals varied widely and were frequently inadequate.  To receive federal funds supporting the care of such individuals, states are required to have in place an independent protection and advocacy system (P&A) that investigates reported or likely incidents of abuse and neglect.  PAMll provides the agency with access to "all records of . . . any individual," including "reports prepared by any staff of a facility rendering care and treatment."...

Found in DMHL Volume 24 Issue 2

Patient Confidentiality Not Violated When Physicians in Same Medical Office Communicated About Patient's HIV Status

Suesbury v. Caceres, 840 A.2d 1285 (D.C. 2004)

The District of Columbia, where this case arose, has recognized the tort of breach of the confidential physician-patient relationship.  A patient, who was HIV positive, brought a lawsuit against a physician and his medical office, claiming such a breach.  The claim arose when one of the patient's doctors sent a memorandum to another doctor within the medical office regarding a claim by the patient that the second doctor had sexually molested him.  The memo disclosed that the patient's HIV status had recently deteriorated...

Found in DMHL Volume 24 Issue 1

Parent May Be Denied Access to Child's Mental Health Records During Divorce and Custody Proceedings

In re Berg, 886 A.2d 980 (N.H. 2005)

Children may be receiving mental health services while their parents are in the process of becoming divorced.  During a custody dispute, a parent may seek to gain access to a child's mental health records in an effort to establish through the discussions between the child and the child's therapist that the other parent has engaged in inappropriate conduct. Although parents generally have a right to access the mental health records of their children, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that this right is significantly limited when asserted in connection with divorce proceedings and custody disputes...

Found in DMHL Volume 25 Issue 2

HIPAA Did Not Preclude Psychotherapist from Reporting That 16-Year-Old Boy Saw Child Pornography on His Father's Home Computer

United States v. Mathis, 377 F. Supp. 2d 640 (M.D. Tenn. 2005)

A sixteen-year-old boy disclosed to his psychotherapist that he saw (1) pornographic images of children on his father's computer at home and (2) his father sitting naked at his computer in front of a webcam.  Although there was no indication the father had sexually abused his son, the psychotherapist reported the disclosure to law enforcement authorities, which ultimately led to the arrest of the father. The father asserted that this report violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and, thus, all evidence generated as a result of this report, including a search of the father's computer, should be suppressed...

Found in DMHL Volume 25 Issue 1

Confidentiality of Medical Records

Stuckey v. Renaissance at Midway, 2015 IL App (1st) 143111, 45 N.E.3d 1151 (Il. Dec. 18, 2015)

In litigation over nursing home liability for a resident’s assault on another resident, state confidentiality laws prohibit and prevent discovery by the plaintiff of the medical records of the resident who committed the assault.

Background: While a resident at a long-term care facility operated by defendants, Robert Holman was physically assaulted by another resident. Plaintiff Johnnie Stuckey— as attorney-in-fact for Holman—filed a personal injury action to recover damages incurred in the assault. Plaintiff moved to compel defendants to produce partially redacted records regarding the resident who assaulted Holman. Defense counsel refused and was held in “friendly contempt.” On appeal, defendants contended that the circuit court erred in ordering production of the records, arguing that both the Illinois’ Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act (the “Confidentiality Act”) and physician-patient privilege prohibited disclosure of the records.

Holdings: The appellate court agreed with the defendants, reversing the circuit court’s discovery orders and vacating the order imposing a fine on defendants for refusal to comply with those discovery orders. The appellate court concluded that the records were protected by the Confidentiality Act and that, because the plaintiff had not shown any exception to the provisions of the Act, the defendant could not be compelled to produce the records.

Notable Points:

Plaintiff failed to raise any possible exception to the Confidentiality Act that would authorize disclosure: Because plaintiff sought records including patient information forms, nurse’s notes, care plans, and social service progress notes—all documents that constitute “records” or “communications” under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act—plaintiff was required to demonstrate a specific exception to the Confidentiality Act that allowed disclosure. Statutory exceptions, however, are “narrowly crafted” and plaintiff never asserted the applicability of any exception.

Found in Found in DMHL Volume 35, Issue 1