ETHICAL PROBLEMS: Wrongful disclosure woes

November 2005 
Volume 35  Number 11
Pages 22 - 22
  PDF Version Available!


A 42-year-old woman was admitted to our medical/surgical unit after a motor vehicle crash related to her alcohol abuse. She's in the middle of a bitter divorce involving a hotly contested child-custody battle.

On the second day of her hospitalization, a chemical dependency specialist with proper identification from another local facility came to our unit and asked to see my patient's chart so he could help with discharge planning and arrange outpatient counseling. Another nurse allowed him to view and copy portions of the patient's record. (I wasn't working at the time.)

Later, while preparing the patient for discharge, I mentioned the specialist's name. My patient hit the ceiling—the specialist is her brother-in-law. She's afraid he gathered information that could be used against her in court.

I've already filed an incident report. How can we prevent something like this from happening again?

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