Doctor says she shouldn't have to hand over patients' abortion records

Doctor says she shouldn’t have to hand over patients’ abortion records


An Indiana doctor who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim has asked a judge to block the Indiana attorney general from accessing patients’ medical records as part of an investigation into consumer complaints that his lawyers called a “sham”.

Lawyers for Caitlin Bernard, an OB/GYN affiliated with Indiana University School of Medicine, and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) met Friday for an emergency hearing to determine whether to authorize a subpoena of the 10-year-old patient’s medical records. while a trial to permanently stop Rokita’s investigation unfolds.

Lawyers for Bernard said Rokita’s efforts to obtain the patient’s medical records were a troubling breach of patient privacy that, if allowed, would undermine trust in doctor-patient confidentiality. The state countered that Rokita’s office is granted access to records as it investigates complaints accusing Bernard of professional misconduct.

Friday’s court battle began four months after Bernard made headlines for treating the 10-year-old rape victim, who was forced to have an out-of-state abortion due to the ban on Six-Week Abortion From Ohio Taking Effect Immediately After Roe vs. Wade was struck down. Since then, the legal battles have intensified and become more politicized as the landscape of abortion access in the United States continues to change.

She aborted a 10-year-old girl. She always fights for her patients.

The hearing is scheduled to continue Monday. On Friday, both sides raised issues of medical privacy, but with markedly different approaches.

Four expert witnesses for the plaintiffs testified about professional ethics and patient privacy. They spoke specifically about the ramifications of third-party complaints being allowed to trigger subpoenas of sensitive medical records.

“He’s asking for very specific information,” said witness Kyle Brothers, a University of Louisville bioethics expert pediatrician who reviewed a request for a civil investigation from Rokita’s office, which is sealed from the public. The brothers described the request as a request for information such as medical records, names, addresses and other documents, according to the Indianapolis Star.

“This type of disclosure, especially for a minor, is just heartbreaking,” he said, explaining how releasing such specific medical information could affect a patient.

Rokita argues that it was Bernard who violated her patient’s privacy when she mentioned the matter to a reporter from the Indianapolis Star; As part of a story about patients traveling across state lines to access abortion, Bernard gave an anecdote that the 10-year-old rape victim was referred to him by “a medical specialist in Child Abuse” in Ohio.

Bernard’s lawyer, Kathleen DeLaney, told reporters at a press conference after Friday’s hearing that experts agreed it was common and acceptable for doctors to discuss patient cases in a “disidentified “, omitting names, dates of birth, county of residence, or any other specific identifiers. details.

“Several of our physician witnesses argued today … that pursuing full patient records is itself a violation of HIPAA,” DeLaney said. “None of the patients filed a complaint about the care they received; they did not put their medical care at issue in any medical proceeding or legal proceeding.

Abortion is now prohibited in these states. See where the laws have changed.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, limits what medical information can be shared without patients’ permission.

DeLaney’s latest point is a key part of the Nov. 3 lawsuit filed against Rokita by Bernard and his medical partner Amy Caldwell, alleging he failed to exercise due diligence to investigate the merits of the claims against Bernard. and Caldwell.

The lawsuit argues that Rokita is relying on “apparently invalid consumer complaints to justify multiple, redundant, and overbroad investigations of law-abiding physicians.”

“The consumer complaints came from people who had heard about the situation on TV or on social media,” DeLaney said at Friday’s press conference.

Once the story of the 10-year-old Ohio rape victim became national news, even earning a mention from President Biden as he condemned the reversal by the US Supreme Court of roe deerRokita publicly announced that he would investigate Bernard for potential wrongdoing.

Rokita appeared on Fox News less than two weeks after the Indianapolis Star story was published and described Bernard as “this abortion activist acting like a doctor”, and he claimed without proof that she had habit of not reporting to required agencies.

“We are gathering the evidence as we speak, and we will fight to the end, including reviewing his license,” Rokita said. “If she failed to report it in Indiana, it’s a felony for — not to report it, intentionally not to report it.”

Bernard and her attorneys said she has complied with all reporting requirements under Indiana law. Their claim was supported by Indiana termination reports obtained by The Washington Post in July, which indicated that Bernard correctly reported performing the abortion on a child rape victim within the required three-day time frame. by the state. A review of Bernard’s records showed no previous complaints until the 10-year-old victim’s story was made public.

According to the lawsuit, between July 8 and July 12, seven people filed a complaint against Bernard. In excerpts filed with the lawsuit, the plaintiffs do not indicate that they are patients of Bernard or even residents of Indiana. One falsely alleged that Bernard “retained knowledge of the rape of a 10-year-old child by authorities” while another appears to be from an Ohio resident who inaccurately described the experience of Bernard treating the 10-year-old as “misinformation” intended to diminish Ohio and demean “pro-life” supporters. Another complaint simply attached the results of a search engine query.

Bernard, who is expected to testify Monday when Rokita’s attorney calls his witnesses, said in a statement after Friday’s hearing that his obligation to ethical patient care includes protecting patient privacy.

“Make no mistake, the intent of this so-called investigation is to silence doctors who provide abortion care and to scare people who seek abortion care,” Bernard said.

Assistant Attorney General Patricia Erdmann told reporters after the hearing that “the attorney general’s office will speak through their court documents.” In a brief statement after the hearing, Rokita’s office said it would “continue to push this legal battle forward to ensure the privacy of every patient in Indiana is protected.”

A final decision on the preliminary injunction is expected next week.

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