Patient Confidentiality or Police Right to Records

  1. Hi all,

    I was watching CBS news this evening and they did a story about a small town in Iowa in which a newborn infant was found dead in a dumpster.

    The police and DA investigating say that they have no leads and that they need access to the local "Planned Parenthood" patient records so that they can look at all women who were pregnant / ready to deliver around the time that the child was discovered. I believe they found the child around 3 months ago.

    If they can get their hands on the records they will consider all of these women suspects until they can prove what happened to their unborn child - birth, miscarriage, etc.


    The person that operates the Planned Parenthood said that she will go to jail before any of the police or DA get their hands on her patients records. She also said that the est. number of patients that the center would have to turn over, if it comes to that, would be 1,000.

    This is the first I have heard of this story and I was wondering what some of you might think about it.

    Is it worth breaching Patient Confidentiality to find the mother of the infant and prosecute her?

    The story really made me think, and I'm still thinking. I can see both sides but I don't know.

    :stone

    Any thoughts?
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  2. 16 Comments

  3. by   kelligrl
    NO NO NO!! They most definitely should NOT be able to do this!! While I understand their drive to want to catch who did this, breaching the confidentiality rights of the 999 other women is an unacceptable way to go about it. Period. In a small town, stuff gets around...that is soo wrong!!
  4. by   Stargazer
    This is a fishing expedition, pure and simple. What makes them think it was someone who utilized PP's services in the first place? If they know that much for a fact, they should be able to narrow it down by quite a bit more than 1000 patients.

    I don't believe for a minute that this is enough for them to get a warrant, unless the judge completely knuckles under to small-town politics. And if that happens, I would imagine PP's national organization will ride into town, guns a-blazin', lawyers in tow.

    Sloppy, lazy police investigating. Bleah.
  5. by   SmilingBluEyes
    I disagree w/this pursuit of medical records at any clinic for this purpose. The confidentiality of TOO many is at stake and it is way too late to help that poor infant that was lost. I just hope this poor girl who did this is able to find help and counseling and to come to terms with this awful event in her life. HOW SAD for both individuals involved. That ANYone feels that desperate is a shame in my opinion.
  6. by   Nurse Ratched
    Utter crap. If you were so freaked about pregnancy that you ultimately wound up dumping the baby in the grabage, would you go to a public clinic in a small town to have a pregnancy test? No way should all those records be accessed.
  7. by   meownsmile
    Absolutely not!!! More than likely that poor childs mother had no prenatal care anyway. So then what,, they want a list of all who got birth control through them too? It is unreasonable to suspect anyone because they use a government service. Are they also trying to get all the OBGYN docs in the area to release their records? I doubt it, it would take months and possibly years to even sift through all that. Im in a fairly small town and i can tell you our OB department has been overflowing with busniess. It's hard enough to do followups on those.
    Sorry stargazer,, i jumped in before i read all the posts. LOL I agree with you completely.
  8. by   Mkue
    Hats off to the Manager of PP for refusing to turn over the records. Had heard this on the radio and hoped that she didn't change her mind.

    She is very couragous and so right !!


    Thanks for posting this.


    Marie
  9. by   shannonRN
    this story is in this week's(Issue Date: July 29, 2002)people magazine...."The case of a dead infant in Storm Lake, Iowa, lands Jill June of Planned Parenthood in a tempest."
    was a very good read. if it ends up that the records have to be turned over it is going to open a very big can of worms.

    Originally posted by meownsmile
    Absolutely not!!! More than likely that poor childs mother had no prenatal care anyway. So then what,, they want a list of all who got birth control through them too? It is unreasonable to suspect anyone because they use a government service. Are they also trying to get all the OBGYN docs in the area to release their records? I doubt it, it would take months and possibly years to even sift through all that.
    i couldn't have said it better myself. right on meownsmile!!!
  10. by   colleen10
    Thank goodness you all agree. I tried to see it from the Police's standpoint but, and I don't know if my thinking is biased because I am a woman, I wouldn't want anyone to have access to my records. I keep thinking what if I was one of those women. A young teenage mother who may have given the child up for adoption or may have not continued the pregnancy or a woman who had a miscarriage. It really makes me mad and sad at the same time.

    For lack of a better statement I am calling this a "modern day witch hunt."
  11. by   tinaRN
    Why not round up all the females capable of bearing children and take DNA material. A match can be found far quicker than chasing a paper trail. Police could also use the procedure to insert tracking chips <read with sarcasm>
  12. by   colleen10
    Hi Tina,

    I agree with you. Give them an inch and they'll take a foot. I would hate to see this pass and set a precident for future cases.
  13. by   LasVegasRN
    I'm glad to see others agree to PP's opposition in handing over the records. Modern day witch hunt it is. I hope the state supreme court agrees with us also!
  14. by   MollyJ
    When I worked in public health, the County Attorney's office briefly toyed with holding us accountable to report our teen pregnant's male partners so that they could prosecute for statutory rape.

    NOT! Luckily our consulting lawyer and our director held firm on this.

    No way we were going to make it adversive for teens to seek prenatal care.

    The police need to get a life.

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