Medical Information Shared With My Sister Without My Consent...

by Michael
(Brunswick, GA)

I visited a plastic surgeon's office to have a skin cancer lesion removed from my ear lobe. However, due to an ear infection I was sent from the surgeon's office to the office of a local infectious disease physician to clear up the ear infection first.

Here is where I believe my rights were violated...

My sister works in the plastic surgeon's office as a licensed esthetician. She called over to the infectious disease office to get me in to see the physician that morning. I went to the physician's office, but filled out no forms (other than insurance), and was told that I could fill out all the other paperwork on my next visit, including my privacy forms and consents.

I in NO WAY filled out ANY RELEASE of pertinent medical information regarding "to whom" my information could be given.

So after my visit to the infectious disease doctor, I stopped back by my sister's office to say goodbye and headed back home to fill my prescriptions and begin treatment. However, when I arrived at the pharmacy the pharmacist told me he "had to take" one of the prescriptions from me because the infectious disease doctor called and told them to take it.

When I called the physician back to see why the script was taken the nurse told me that it, "had to do with a conversation the infectious disease doctor had with my sister about my case and my visit."

This upset me so I then called the ID office back and asked why my visit notes had been shared with my sister. Their answer was that, "the visit was a favor to my sister and thought it okay to tell her the details of his diagnosis and proper medicines prescribed." So the doctor's office decided to cancel one of the scripts because my sister found it unnecessary.

When I didn't give consent for information to be shared with anyone, why would the physician share my case notes with a family member or another physicians Ooffice? I understand that my sister helped me to get a visit with a separate doctor's office, however this should NOT give her implied consent to call the physician personally to get specific notes and diagnosis without my approval.

I spoke to the ID office manager about my issue and she repeated that the visit was done, "as a favor to (my) sister". But when I told her I NEVER gave consent to share information from my visit, she quickly got quiet and asked me, "What do you want?"

This is my question, what do I want? Do I have a case here of violation of my HIPAA rights? Is it "legal" for my sister to be able to call from the plastic surgeon's office and ask specifics about my visit and make changes to my prescriptions without asking or involving me?

The way I see it, it's black-and-white. The ID office doctor should have notified my sister that my visit notes and diagnosis was privileged information, as I had yet to fill out any privacy release or HIPAA consent forms. And that until I did, he would NOT be able to share ANY information with any outside source. That's my belief. Do I have a case? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Medical Information Shared With My Sister Without My Consent...":

Michael (Brunswick, GA):

From the facts you present we will presume when your sister learned the infectious disease doctor prescribed narcotic pain medication, she decided you may have had a problem with that type of pain medication and asked the prescription be rescinded. That's probably not a great leap of faith.

If it was another type of prescription which might be harmful to you it's logical you would have realized it and told the doctor not to prescribe it. Or if the doctor did, you would have been smart enough not to try and have the prescription filled.

If you are considering a HIPAA violation you will be involving your sister as an adverse party, or at a minimum an adverse witness. Inasmuch as the only harm seems to be the rescinding of a prescription your sister knew you shouldn't have, the type and amount of your damages seems quite limited.

You obviously initially shared your health problems with your sister and asked her to assist you with obtaining medical care. You seem to be saying she only had a right to know about part of the medical information related to your ear and not more. Being that you initially voluntarily shared your medical information with your sister, you appear to have a very weak case.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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