Bil Browning

Indiana man wins $1.25M after doc discloses he's HIV+

Filed By Bil Browning | July 05, 2010 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living
Tags: Bloomington, HIV status, HIV+, Internal Medicine Associates, patient confidentiality

A Bloomington, Indiana man won $1.25 million judgment against Internal Medicine Associates after they disclosed his HIV status when they sued him for a $326 past due bill. The doctor's office gave the information to their collection lawyers who gave it to collection agents and included it in a court filing demanding payment.

map_indiana.gifThe ruling followed years of grueling depositions and medical board rulings in favor of the patient. The man's name wasn't disclosed in his lawsuit; the original suit brought by IMA that disclosed his real name and HIV status was filed in 2004. Because the information became publicly available once their collections case was filed, anyone could have seen the filing and known the man's status.

"The entire case is about protecting his privacy and not having people in the Bloomington community know his status," his attorney, Neal Eggesen, said. "He was asking the jury to at least give him enough to move somewhere else. He does not feel comfortable here anymore."

In court, the man testified that IMA had told more people he was positive than he had. Attorneys for IMA argued that since he had told at least one other person who wasn't his family or sexual partner, they had no obligation to pay anything for telling a non-relevant party; they also demanded to know how many sexual partners the man had had so they knew how many people he'd told before having sex.

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unfuckingbelievable that they would have the balls to defy federal law like that.

Or not -- HIPAA is ignored when it's inconvenient and people still don't realize the extent of what it covers.

I am thrilled to hear of this verdict. To a level and degree that I cannot express in words, but i will say I will go and do a little dance on behalf of this gentleman.

In rural America, it's shit like this (on the part of the doctor) that creates barriers to health care, especially for closeted gay men.

A. J. Lopp | July 6, 2010 12:06 AM

It serves the doctor and collection agency right for doing things so dispicable over such a small outstanding bill.

This settlement would leave them $1,249,674 in the hole --- but unfortunately, knowing how such things go, the Bloomington man will be lucky if he receives a cent of it.

HIV status is treated more stringently than other medical conditions. Transgender status deserves at least that level of privacy, but it is routinely disclosed by everyone we come in contact with. It should be illegal to disclose someone's transgender status, as it is in the UK.

HIV status is strongly protected under medical privacy rules. I'm a licensed EMT-B, and we were instructed to never, ever discuss a patient's HIV status out loud, even when we're making an official patient report -- that information is noted on the written chart only.

Good lawyers get good results, and this is one of the times that proves it. It's not the money... it's the fact that doctors cause unessasary pain, when it would be best to write it off as a loss.