Mid-Atlantic Health Law TOPICS
Patient Privacy vs. Disciplining Doctors
This January, Maryland's highest court ruled in Board of Physicians v. Eist, that health care practitioners must timely disclose patient medical records to Maryland's Board of Physicians pursuant to a Board subpoena, or face sanctions, even if the patient involved objects to the disclosure.
In this case, Dr. Eist, a psychiatrist, became the subject of a Board investigation after the estranged husband of one of his patients accused Dr. Eist of, among other things, overmedicating the patient. The Board demanded the patient's medical records, but Dr. Eist initially withheld the records when his patient refused to give consent to the disclosure. Dr. Eist believed that he should wait until the Board and his patient settled their privacy dispute.
The Board eventually cleared Dr. Eist of the original charges, but reprimanded him, and fined him $5,000 for refusing to cooperate with the investigation. Dr. Eist appealed the sanction in court.
Unfortunately for Dr. Eist, Maryland's highest court sided with the Board of Physicians. The court reasoned that to decide for Dr. Eist would essentially defeat the Board's lawful power to issue subpoenas: if the Board had to go to court to validate every subpoena, the General Assembly's grant of subpoena power to the Board would be meaningless.
The court stated that Maryland's medical records law places the burden of seeking court protection on the practitioner or patient, not on the Board, even in cases where there are legitimate privacy objections to a subpoena.
June 14, 2011