Is Breach of Confidentiality Considered Medical Malpractice?

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider deviates from the standard of care in the medical community, leading to patient harm. The legal system has developed specific criteria to evaluate whether an action qualifies as malpractice, so let’s consider whether a breach of confidentiality can be considered medical malpractice and when it’s time to call medical malpractice lawyers in Maryland for help.

Legal Definition of Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice is defined as an act or omission by a healthcare provider that fails to meet the standard of care and results in harm to the patient. The standard of care refers to what a reasonable medical professional would or would not have done under the same or similar circumstances.

To establish a malpractice case, you must prove that the healthcare provider owed a duty of care, breached that duty, and this breach directly caused your injury or harm.

Confidentiality in Healthcare

Confidentiality in healthcare is a fundamental principle and mandates that healthcare providers keep all patient information private unless the patient provides consent for its disclosure. This principle is not just an ethical obligation but also a legal requirement, reinforced by laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Maryland state law.

A breach of confidentiality occurs when a healthcare provider discloses a patient’s private information without consent. However, not all breaches of confidentiality automatically constitute medical malpractice. For a breach to rise to the level of malpractice, it must meet certain criteria:

Duty of Care and Breach

There must be a clear duty of care toward the patient. In cases of confidentiality, this duty is inherent in the doctor-patient relationship. A breach occurs if the provider discloses confidential information without consent and outside the legally permitted avenues for sharing patient information, such as between doctors to which a patient has been referred.

Direct Causation

The breach must directly cause harm to the patient. This harm can be physical, emotional, or financial. For instance, if the unauthorized disclosure leads to mental distress or damages the patient’s reputation or employment opportunities, it could be grounds for a malpractice claim.

Measurable Damages

The patient must suffer measurable harm as a result of the breach. This could include costs related to mental health treatment for distress caused by the breach, loss of income, or other quantifiable damages.

The Role of HIPAA and State Laws

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets national standards for the protection of health information. While HIPAA itself does not provide a private cause of action for individuals, it establishes the standard of care expected of healthcare providers.

Maryland law complements HIPAA by providing additional privacy protections and avenues for recourse in the event of a breach. These laws can influence malpractice claims by establishing the expectations for confidentiality.

Evaluating Harm: Physical, Emotional, and Financial Impact

When considering whether a breach of confidentiality is malpractice, the type and extent of harm are critically evaluated. Physical harm might occur if the breach leads to inappropriate treatment. Emotional harm is often a consequence of breaches, particularly if sensitive information is disclosed.

Financial harm could result from job loss or other economic impacts due to the breach. The nature and severity of these impacts play a crucial role in determining whether a breach of confidentiality rises to the level of medical malpractice.

Working With Medical Malpractice Lawyers in Maryland

If you believe you have been a victim of a breach of confidentiality that constitutes medical malpractice, understand that the legal process in Maryland requires specific steps, and it’s always best to consult with a legal professional specializing in medical malpractice. They can assess the details of your case and guide you through this process. Click here to learn more.

Statute of Limitations and Preliminary Requirements

Maryland law stipulates a statute of limitations for filing medical malpractice claims. Generally, you must file a claim within three years of the date the injury was discovered, or within five years of the date the injury occurred, whichever is earlier.

Additionally, Maryland requires a certificate of merit from a qualified medical expert to accompany the lawsuit. This expert must certify that the healthcare provider deviated from the standard of care and caused harm to the patient.

Expert Testimony: Establishing Standard of Care and Harm

In medical malpractice cases, an expert can help establish what the standard of care was and how the healthcare provider’s actions deviated from this standard. When dealing with breaches of confidentiality, the expert might also discuss the expected protocols for maintaining confidentiality and how their violation led to your harm.

Proving Causation and Damages

A critical element in these cases is proving causation. You need to show that the breach of confidentiality directly caused your harm. This may involve demonstrating how the breach led to specific physical, emotional, or financial damages. Documenting these impacts often means gathering up medical records, mental health treatment records, employment records, and any other evidence that supports your claim. In conclusion, a breach of confidentiality can constitute medical malpractice in Maryland if it meets the legal criteria of a duty of care, a breach of that duty, direct causation, and measurable harm. Be sure to talk with a legal expert right away to find out the right next steps for you.