Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Health

Lawsuit claims Tampa General Hospital divulged woman's HIV status without her consent

A Florida woman is suing Tampa General Hospital, saying hospital employees violated her privacy by unlawfully disclosing her HIV status to her family.

The woman, who was not identified in the lawsuit, was admitted to the hospital as a maternal patient in December 2014. During her stay, a nurse mentioned she was HIV positive in front of her adult daughter, her attorneys said.

"Prior to this wrongful disclosure, (the) daughter was unaware of her mother's HIV-positive status," the attorneys wrote in the complaint, which was filed earlier this month in Hillsborough Circuit Court.

It happened again one month later, when the woman's newborn daughter was dying in the hospital.

A spokesman for Tampa General Hospital declined to comment on the lawsuit. But the woman's attorneys say the hospital broke a state law that protects the privacy of people who take HIV tests.

Under Florida law, "no person to whom the results of a test have been disclosed may disclose the test results to another person."

During the woman's initial admission to Tampa General, she made it clear "she did not want her medical status (HIV positive) disclosed to anyone outside of her health care providers," according to the suit.

"This request was not honored," her attorneys wrote.

When her personal information was disclosed for a second time, the woman's newborn daughter was dying of non-HIV-related surgical complications.

As the woman held the baby "for the first and last time," hospital employees held a speakerphone call with organ transplant personnel to discuss the possible donation of the infant's organs, according to the suit, which seeks an undisclosed amount.

"During the course of the conversation, Tampa General Hospital, nurses and the organ transplant persons discussed extensively that the infant child could not be an organ donor as her mother was HIV positive," her attorneys wrote.

It was loud enough for her family members in the hallway and other hospital employees to hear, they said.

The woman suffered "grave damages" when her private medical information was disclosed, including "emotional distress," her attorneys said.

The unlawful disclosure of HIV test results could also pose a public health threat, they added.

"The Legislature has specifically found and pronounced that the public health will be served by facilitating informed, voluntary and confidential use of tests designed to detect human immunodeficiency virus infection," they wrote.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.

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