Patient Confidentiality or Police Right to Records - page 2

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... Read More

  1. by   colleen10
    Wow! Molly - good for you guys!

    Hate to play the "Sex Card" but
    I noticed in the story that the DA was male, as were the police chief/officers they interviewed. Do any of you think that if they were female they wouldn't press to get the records? They would be more sensitive to the kind of information and damage they could do to all those women?

    They probably just don't like the idea / publicity of having that open case hanging over their heads and will stop at nothing to close it.
  2. by   tinaRN
    Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa has received a lot of attention recently from our local and regional news reporters as well as national media because we are fighting an unprecedented battle that has the potential to undermine a value we hold paramount--the privacy and confidentiality of our patients.

    The Storm Lake, Iowa, officials who are investigating the death of an abandoned newborn baby subpoenaed PPGI's medical records for all women who have received positive pregnancy tests since last August. Unfortunately, the Buena Vista County attorney has no leads in the case and, out of desperation, wants to compromise the privacy of what we estimate to be hundreds of women who came to our Storm Lake clinic. In return for this monumental violation of privacy, the information taken will most likely not advance the investigation.

    Although we would like to help the investigation into this infant's death, turning over confidential patient records violates medical ethics and state and federal laws. It is wrong for the county to ask and it would wrong for Planned Parenthood to comply with the request.

    We will not compromise our patients' privacy or trust in Planned Parenthood. We will appeal the county judge's order to the highest level. Medical records are protected by state and federal privacy laws regarding doctor-patient privilege, which explicitly prohibit health care providers from releasing such records without a patient's written authorization. We will not sacrifice the privacy rights of law-abiding citizens who came to PPGI for a medical service under the belief that the information shared would remain confidential. These patients should not be subject to a criminal investigation merely because they sought medical services. The precedence this situation could set would be devastating. If women's names could be turned over to law enforcement simply for having a pregnancy test in this case, in the future, women may be too frightened to seek the medical care they need and deserve. To voice your opinion on this issue, email us at

    I think they will win.

    Anyone have any experience with the no penalty baby drop off laws?
  3. by   MollyJ
    Our State has a no penalty baby drop off law and I'm really not sure how it has impacted things.

    As an ED nurse I had contact with a total of three girls who came in in active labor denying that they could be pregnant. (Stories in themselves.) I also (reliable resource) heard tell of a girl that gave birth in her car and kept the baby a secret in her room for a couple of days. In our community we also had a girl that gave birth and tossed the baby into a field/lot near her home. (I recall the baby was a still birth.) That body was discovered when a city lawnmower hit something unusual and the city employee stopped to investigate.

    To my observation, immaturity was a huge factor in all of these events. To be pregnant was SO UNTHINKABLE that they all went to great lengths to deny the facts. I'm not sure that drop off laws would have "helped" either of these girls, though the girls that came to the ED were clearly miles ahead of the other two in their willingness to face what "might" be happening.

    There is something very poignant to me about a teen going into labor and feeling so frightened of what is happening that they deny it until, inevitably, they give birth alone and are trying to cope with an unprepared labor and delivery AND figure out what to do about this "evidence of sexual activity". Clearly, no matter how you feel about what happens to the baby here, the baby is not the only victim.

    Ultimately, this was solid evidence of teens basic unpreparedness to be sexually active though I say this fully aware that many teens will choose sexual activity regardless of this truth. The reality is that we have to deal with sexually active teens and others who will be too screwed up to figure out what to do when they *inopportunely* give birth.
  4. by   NICUNURSE
    I agree with you guys 100%. First of all, if these investigators gain access to these records, the violation of privacy does not stop there. These investigators will then interview family, neighbors, friends, etc. to determine whether these women could have recently given birth, etc. God forbide one of these girls decided to seek an abortion. Can you imagine everyone you know finding out about and judging what I would assume would be one of the most difficult times in your life? Seems to me that if the right to know supercedes the right to privacy, a lot less women will seek help at places like PP and the number of tragic incidents like this will increase.