A group of Florida attorneys have joined forces to challenge the ex parte communications sanctioned under the new Florida Senate Bill 1792, which goes into effect today. The bill allows for patient privacy to be violated by allowing third parties, like defense attorneys, to gain access to, what were previously protected, patient medical records.
Complaints submitted by the group claim that the law is unconstitutional and is in direct violation of the right to privacy covered under the First Amendment and the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the Senate Bill 1792 into law in early June, allowing for ex parte communications to take place in cases of medical negligence. In this case, ex parte communications are undisclosed conversations between the defense attorney of a medical negligence case and the plaintiff’s physician without the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney present.
The legislation could create numerous issues for victims of medical negligence cases. Allowing attorneys to participate in ex parte communications could cause the patient to withhold important health information from their doctor in fear of the information making its way into the hands of the defense, making the patient’s treatment less effective.
According to Debra Henley, executive director of the Florida Justice Association, the legislation gives doctors the ability to disclose medical history and personal information to defense attorneys requesting the information, while an attorney is not there to protect the patient. Disclosed information regarding the patient can be used by the defense attorney later in court.
“It’s important for patient privacy to be respected so the relationship between a person and their doctor is protected. The lawsuits filed against this legislation seek to do just that,” commented Virginia Buchanan, an attorney with the Levin, Papantonio law firm who practices in the areas of medical malpractice and personal injury. Ms. Buchanan is one of the Florida attorneys who filed a complaint challenging Scott’s bill.
Privacy is already being questioned by the public in the wake of the recent NSA leaks exposing widespread surveillance programs by the government. The bill seems to be another bad piece of legislation initiated by Scott. Allowing for yet further breaches of privacy and complicating the relationship of patients to their physicians.
Krysta is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.