INDIANAPOLIS — You may remember the story of an IU Health doctor who told a reporter about performing an abortion on a rape victim from Ohio. That story isn’t over just yet.
“Today, my office is filing a lawsuit on behalf of the people of Indiana against IU Health,” says Attorney General Todd Rokita Friday, “for their failure to properly enforce HIPAA violations and violating other Indiana laws and rules.”
Rokita’s lawsuit stems from the case of Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an IU Health doctor who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio.
The abortion procedure happened in Indiana, and not in Ohio, due to Ohio’s strict abortion law that went into effect after the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade in June of 2022.
Dr. Bernard spoke with an Indianapolis reporter about the abortion, and that story quickly grabbed headlines around the world, even getting the attention of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.
Dr. Bernard reported the rape to police, who eventually arrested Gerson Fuentes, who’s serving life in prison.
Fuentes made a plea deal with prosecutors, in which he pled guilty, and the court allowed Fuentes to be considered for parole after he serves at least 25 years behind bars. He admitted to raping the girl at least twice since she was 9 years old.
Dr. Bernard was later reprimanded by the state Medical Licensing Board, which ruled Bernard did violate some privacy policies.
IU Health publicly disagreed with the board’s decision, and that’s why Rokita is taking the state’s largest hospital network to court.
The state’s attorney general says IU Health has caused “confusion among its 36,000-member workforce regarding what conduct is permitted not only under HIPAA privacy laws and the Indiana Patient Confidentiality rule, and as a result, as Indiana’s largest health network, they created an environment that threatens the privacy of its Indiana patients.”
Rokita also points to inconsistencies with IU Health’s handling of HIPAA violations and privacy matters. He says this creates a lack of trust amongst doctors and patients.
“Trust is the foundation of the patient/doctor relationship,” Rokita explains, “without trust, we do not have reliable, honest healthcare.”
These are the seven counts against IU Health, as listed by the attorney general’s office:
- Failure to implement or follow administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to protect the privacy of protected information
- Failure to document disclosures of personal health information
- Failure to implement or apply and document sanctions
- Failure to appropriately train its workforce
- Failure to notify patients of breach
- Failure to mitigate harm
- Violations of Indiana’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act
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