Doctors, nurses, and health care providers are obligated to adhere to certain standards of care when providing medical treatment and the failure to do so could amount to medical malpractice. One such standard of care is the obligation to maintain a patient’s medical privacy. If a doctor breaches a patient’s confidentiality, he or she could be found liable for medical malpractice.
A patient’s right to medical privacy includes the confidence that the doctor will not disclose his or her personal information, including medical records and other medical information, without the patient’s consent, as well as several obligations imposed under federal HIPAA laws. If the doctor or health care provider discloses the patient’s medical information without the patient’s consent – even if the information is disclosed to the patient’s family members – the doctor or health care provider could be liable for medical malpractice.
With technological advances, patient confidentiality has entered unchartered territory and may cover a number of actions beyond the disclosure of information. For instance, a recent lawsuit filed by a patient in California highlights the privacy and data risks inherent in this age of smartphones and social media. According to the Los Angeles Times, a patient’s anesthesiologist decorated the patient’s face with stickers while she was unconscious and a nurse’s aide subsequently snapped a photo. The incident, which occurred in 2011, prompted a state investigation that resulted in disciplinary action against the doctor and the other employees involved in the incident, but the doctor maintained his privileges at the hospital and none of the employees were fired.
The patient filed a civil lawsuit against the hospital and the doctor based on the alleged breach of medical privacy. Depositions taken in connection with the civil lawsuit indicate a dispute about whether the photo was posted to Facebook, with the nurse’s aide testifying that she did not email or post the photo anywhere and others testifying that they saw the photo on Facebook.
“The idea that people are using their cell phone or even have one in the operating room is crazy,” Dr. Deborah Peel, founder of the nonprofit advocacy group Patient Privacy Rights, has said. “It’s a massive security risk and incredibly insensitive to patients.”
In a similar case, four employees at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, California were terminated because they used cell phones to photograph a dead emergency-room patient and shared the photos with others.
If you suspect that your doctor or medical staff has committed a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality, you should promptly consult with an experienced Illinois medical malpractice attorney. The skilled Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Ankin Law Office, LLC have considerable experienced with all types of medical malpractice claims, including those resulting from a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality, and we can help you understand your legal rights and remedies.
Contact one of our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at (312) 600-0000 to schedule a free consultation to discuss a possible medical malpractice claim.