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Disclosure without patient consent may be malpractice

Doctors in Arizona owe their patients the duty of providing the type of care that other doctors in their fields would provide under similar circumstances. In addition, doctors also have a duty of confidentiality to their patients concerning their diagnostic information. In a case in New Jersey, a court found that a doctor's violation of his duty of confidentiality was a type of medical malpractice.

In the case, an HIV-positive man was receiving treatment from a nephrologist after his kidneys failed. The doctor told a third party who was in the room that the man was HIV-positive. The man had not given his consent for his HIV status to be disclosed. He first filed a lawsuit against the doctor for violating HIPAA but amended it to include three other claims since people do not have private rights of action under HIPAA.

The man's suit alleged that the doctor violated the AIDs Assistance Act and that his disclosure was also medical malpractice and an invasion of his privacy through public disclosure. The doctor moved for the case to be dismissed, claiming that the man's case should fall under the statute of limitations for defamation. The court disagreed, finding that it was medical malpractice and thus subject to the longer two-year statute of limitations in New Jersey.

When doctor errors are serious enough that they make the provision of care below the minimum standard of what should be reasonably expected, the injured patients may have the basis to file medical malpractice lawsuits. Experienced malpractice attorneys may review the medical records and the circumstances in order to determine whether or not malpractice happened. If they agree to accept clients' cases, they may commence formal lawsuits and work to recover the maximum compensation to which their clients should be entitled to for their losses.

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