Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (6)1 Jan 98

   Quick Summary: Under state and Federal law, a general release for medical records does not authorize a provider to divulge the fact of substance abuse treatment or substance abuse treatment records. That requires a written release signed by the patient which specifically applies to such information and records.

   The patient signed the insurance company’s legal release form which specifically authorized the hospital to release substance abuse information and treatment records, the court determined.

  The hospital released his confidential medical records to the insurance company. The records showed he had sought treatment and had admitted to a long history of alcohol abuse. He lost his job with the company, and sued the hospital for breach of medical confidentiality for releasing his alcohol records to his employer.

   The patient pled guilty to charges of driving while intoxicated. He came in for an alcohol abuse assessment in the hospital’s chemical dependency unit, entered the outpatient program, but did not complete treatment.

   Two years later he applied for life insurance from the same company for whom he was working as an insurance agent. He indicated he had never received alcohol treatment or been arrested for an alcohol-related offense.

  The insurance company’s background check made the company suspicious he had had trouble with alcohol. They knew he had been treated at a certain hospital, but did not know why. They asked the man to sign a release for medical records from the hospital to round out their investigation.

   The Court of Appeal of Louisiana threw out the lawsuit.   Lugar vs. Baton Rouge General Medical Center, 696 So. 2d 652 (La. App., 1997).