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Court says invasion of patient privacy is medical malpractice

Sep 18, 2017 | Doctor Errors

New York residents may be interested in a recent malpractice case that involved a patient’s privacy rights. Several factors in the case were in dispute prior to a decision by the court. These factors included statute of limitations and the privacy rights of AIDS patients.

The plaintiff was being treated by a nephrologist for kidney failure in an emergency room when, according to the original complaint, the doctor revealed that the patient was HIV positive in front of a third party without the patient’s consent. The original complaint charged the doctor with violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Because HIPAA does not give an individual the right to file a lawsuit for a violation, however, the complaint was amended. The amended complaint charged malpractice, invasion of privacy and violation of the AIDS Assistance Act.

The doctor and hospital sought dismissal of the case on the grounds that it was subject to the one-year statute of limitations on defamation claims. The plaintiff countered that he had not charged the doctor with defamation, and that the two-year statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims should apply to all three complaints.

The court found that the disclosure of the patient’s medical information without consent was a violation of the AIDS Assistance Act, medical malpractice and an invasion of privacy. It also found that all three counts were subject to the two-year medical malpractice statute of limitations.

Medical malpractice is generally defined as a deviation from the standard of care. The medical standard of care is what is considered to be the actions an average physician would take under similar circumstances. Doctor errors, although they are usually accidental, could injure a patient and be considered medical malpractice.