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What Is A Breach Of Doctor-Patient Confidentiality?

If a person has a medical problem that necessitates medical attention or is simply going in for their annual check-up, anything they discuss with their doctor is kept between them and the healthcare provider. The physician is legally obligated to uphold a doctor-patient confidentiality agreement, which is based on the idea that a patient should never be afraid to seek medical treatment for fear of private medical information being disclosed to others. If a patient discovers that the information they shared with their doctor was mishandled or shared with others without their consent, this is a violation of the doctor-patient confidentiality agreement, and they may be able to sue their healthcare provider for medical malpractice. A knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney can thoroughly review the case and advise you on the best legal course of action.  At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, our highly experienced medical malpractice attorneys may be able to help you collect the compensation you deserve.  We help clients throughout Upstate New York, with offices in multiple convenient locations. Our extensive experience in the medical malpractice field is reflected in the results we have achieved for our clients.

A person’s health is a very personal matter, especially if they have specific health issues that they do not feel comfortable discussing with others. Doctor-patient confidentiality is important because it allows patients to feel more comfortable sharing medical information. Furthermore, the more information the doctor has about the patient, the better he or she will be able to make an accurate diagnosis and provide the best care possible.

Once the doctor-patient relationship is established, the physician is not permitted to disclose any medical information without the patient’s permission. The duty of confidentiality does not end when the patient is no longer under the physician’s care. It lasts as long as the patient does, and it even lasts after the patient dies. The following are covered by the agreement:

  • Information on appointments, examinations, and procedures discussed with the doctor and other health care professionals.
  • Pre-existing conditions, medical history, x-rays, and laboratory reports are all included in the medical records.
  • After examinations, the physician’s opinions, conclusions, and diagnoses.
  • All communication between the patient and the doctor, as well as other healthcare professionals involved in the patient’s care.

In most cases, the physician does not have the right to disclose patient information; this is a right reserved for the patient. If the patient files a medical malpractice lawsuit and the case proceeds to court, the patient will be able to assert his or her privilege if the physician begins to reveal privileged information. The patient’s medical malpractice attorney must object to the information being disclosed. If the patient or his or her attorney does not object, the privilege is waived. When filing a medical malpractice lawsuit, patients typically waive the doctor-patient privilege because the disclosure of information implies that the patient’s health was jeopardized while under the care of the physician. A patient may waive their right to confidentiality if they file a personal injury claim. When an alleged breach is the subject of a lawsuit, there is an implied consent to proceed. Furthermore, if a family member or friend attends the patient’s appointment, they may be required to provide relevant information during testimony.

Although it is unlikely that a patient’s healthcare professional will be able to share any of their medical information with a third party without their consent, some exceptions would allow the physician to disclose patient information, including the following:

  • A public health official is required to receive information from the physician.
  • A criminal investigation led to the patient’s injuries.
  • The patient has been diagnosed with a communicable infectious disease, such as HIV.
  • The patient is in danger of injuring themselves or others.
  • There could be issues with health insurance.

Most states do not require physicians to report patients who abuse drugs or alcohol. According to the Center for Ethics Education at Fordham University, if there is no mandatory reporting requirement, patients may be more likely to disclose a substance abuse problem to their healthcare professionals. The doctor can then refer the patient to an addiction specialist psychologist. If the patient is experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms or is severely intoxicated and requires medical attention, the physician may seek assistance from another medical professional without obtaining the patient’s consent.

There are times when a doctor may inadvertently disclose patient information without intending to. A physician, for example, may discuss case details with another healthcare provider. However, if this conversation occurs in a hallway or on an elevator where other people can easily hear it, it may be considered an inadvertent breach. When a physician wants to discuss the details of a case with a colleague, they should always do so in a private setting.

Patients who wish to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against their healthcare provider should consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. This will assist the patient in avoiding common errors and obtaining all necessary information for a successful claim. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer will assist clients with the following when pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit:

  • Gathering medical records. Because healthcare providers are required by law to keep patients’ medical records and health information strictly confidential, a patient who wishes to file a medical malpractice lawsuit must sign a release form for that information to be shared with an attorney. If the patient’s reputation was harmed as a result of the information disclosure, the patient can seek compensatory damages, including emotional suffering.
  • Statute of Limitations. The time within which a medical malpractice lawsuit varies from state to state. A New York medical malpractice attorney will assist you in determining the statute of limitations on filing a claim against a medical provider.
  • Qualified Expert Certification. A medical malpractice lawyer can help the patient obtain this certificate.
  • Attesting Expert Report. In addition to the certificate of a qualified expert, this is required.

Damages are limited. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, the amount of damages a patient can receive for pain and suffering is limited in comparison to what an injury victim can receive in a personal injury case.  A patient can recover two types of damages in a medical malpractice case, including the following:

Economic damages are costs that can be calculated precisely, such as:

  • Medical expenses incurred as a result of the injury, such as hospital bills, prescription medications, and in-home care.
  • Wages lost if the patient is unable to return to work for an extended period.

Non-economic losses: These expenses cover a patient’s reduced quality of life and can include:

  • Suffering and pain: As previously stated, depending on the nature of the injury, patients can receive up to $830,000.
  • Loss of consortium: The injury causes a loss of companionship, affection, or sexual activity.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life: Serious injuries can result in chronic pain, immobility, emotional distress, and other problems that can lead to depression or emotional pain.

Punitive damages are awarded to punish healthcare professionals who have made egregious errors. For example, if a physician purposefully shared a patient’s private medical information without permission, the patient may seek punitive damages.

If your doctor violated the doctor-patient confidentiality agreement, contact the highly skilled medical malpractice lawyers at DeFrancisco & Falgiatano right away. This is a violation of your rights, and the negligent party will be held liable for any injuries or emotional distress. Our top priority is to protect your rights, and we will not stop fighting for you until you are completely satisfied. At DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, we represent injured clients and their families throughout Upstate New York, including Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, Buffalo, Elmira, Binghamton, Auburn, Ithaca, Oswego, Norwich, Herkimer, Delhi, Cooperstown, Cortland, Lowville, Oneida, Watertown, Utica, Canandaigua, Wampsville, Lyons, and surrounding areas.  Please call us at 833-200-2000 or contact us via our online form to discuss your case.

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