Think Before You Blurt

And you thought doctors were supposed to be smart…

Brian was hospitalized for a week last August. One day his friend Cheryl was visiting him when a doctor walked into his room. She introduced herself as the allergy specialist, and she’d come to check for any allergic response to the medications he’d been given. Then she said, ‘The HIV specialist will be in tomorrow to monitor you as well.’ Cheryl didn’t know Brian had HIV until the doctor unthinkingly blurted it out.

As you might imagine, Brian was quite upset at the doctor’s disregard for his privacy. He filed a grievance with the hospital. The hospital acknowledged the doctor’s mistake and apologized. That wasn’t enough to convince Brian that this wouldn’t happen again to someone else. So he contact us. We interviewed Cheryl, confirmed the story, and determined that the doctor’s disclosure was a violation of the Illinois AIDS Confidentiality Act which says in part, “No person to whom the results of [an HIV] test have been disclosed may disclose the test results to another person” without written authorization. The AIDS Confidentiality Act also says that someone who negligently discloses a person’s HIV status faces a statutory fine of $2,000 per disclosure.

So we contacted the attorneys for the hospital, and after a few telephone conversations the hospital agreed to settle with Brian for $2,000. And you better believe that doctor got a strong talking-to.

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