Violation of confidentiality by a retired physician who is a sibling?

by Simone
(New Orleans, LA, USA)

My brother in law is a retired OB/GYN. He prescribed my husband (his younger brother) thyroid medication for hypothyroidism for a brief period of time. This was after he retired. My brother in law, the doctor, tried to diagnose his brother (my husband) with having Bipolar Disorder. My brother in law does not specialize in Psychology/Psychiatry.

My brother in law has informed the majority of everyone in my husband's family, that he is Bipolar. My husband was NEVER diagnosed with a mental health issue.

In the DSM-V (May 2013) it clearly states that if a person is diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, then Bipolar is RULED OUT, as symptoms of hypothyroidism can manifest in ways that parallel Bipolar Disorder. So therefore, a medical thyroid disorder is a rule out for Bipolar Disorder.

I also believe that my brother in law, the retired OB/GYN, is not only guilty of violating HIPAA, but what he has said to my husband's family via emails in UNETHICAL for a doctor to do, retired or not.

I also believe him to be guilty of libel and slander, as my husband was requesting a secure loan from certain siblings who perhaps might have given it to him had his older brother, the doctor, not accused my husband of having a mental illness (via email - CC'd to other family members) to question my husband's mental stability.

Can anything be done about this? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Violation of confidentiality by a retired physician who is a sibling?":

Simone (New Orleans, LA, USA):

For purposes of your question, the legal definition of slander is the communication of a false statement which harms the reputation of an individual person. In your husband's case, there may be sufficient evidence he was slandered by his brother.

Moreover, his brother’s statements to family members accusing him of a mental health disorder may qualify as slander "per se." Slander per se is defamation so serious as to not require the person who was slandered to have to prove the type of injuries he or she sustained as a result of the slanderous statement.

With slander per se it would not be necessary for him to prove the slanderous statements resulted in the denial of a loan. Just the statement alone accusing him of a mental disorder may be sufficient to support a viable claim for slander.

From the facts you present your brother’s husband likely qualifies under HIPAA as a "covered entity." As a covered entity the unauthorized dissemination of medical information may qualify as a violation of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

The obvious questions is, does your husband want to sue his brother for slander? Moreover, does your husband want to file a HIPAA complaint against his brother?

You can’t sue on your husband's behalf. You also can’t file a HIPAA violation on your husband's behalf. This might be different if your husband was physically or mentally incapacitated and you were acting in his behalf under a power of attorney, or under a court order.

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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