Each state has its own laws regarding medical malpractice. Some laws help injured patients, while others are in favor of the accused physicians. A proposed Florida law would allow defendants – include defense attorneys and insurance companies – to obtain health information about the patient accusing the doctor of medical malpractice. But is this legal?
A federal judge says no, that this law would conflict with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPPA is a federal law that protects a patient’s health information and prevents it from being disclosed to third parties. The proposed medical malpractice law, called “ex parte communications,” would allow the defense to seek health information from the patient’s doctor, even without the patient or his or her attorney present.
Supporters of the law claim that there needs to be fairness. The patient’s attorney can view the patient’s health records, so why can’t the doctor’s attorney? Not only is it an issue of fairness, but the new law could help lawyers make decisions quickly and easily regarding settlements. Despite the benefits, federal law currently prevails,
The law just went into effect July 1, and there were several lawsuits filed across Florida, both at the federal and state level. Those lawsuits attacked the issue of ex parte communications in medical malpractice lawsuits. The lawsuit the federal judge just ruled on was one in which the state had intervened in an attempt to defend the law.
A patient’s health information should be kept confidential even in medical malpractice cases. Only the patient’s lawyer should have access to such privileged information. Medical malpractice victims need to ensure their legal rights are protected. They should not have to lose their right to privacy without their consent simply because they chose to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Source: Miami Herald, “Judge tosses key provision of medical malpractice law” Jim Saunders, Sep. 26, 2013