The Time my Friend’s HIPAA Rights Were Violated

(The following post is not affiliated with SUNY Geneseo, but rather a school far, far away)

Dodging stray chairs, I meandered my way across the cafe caressing two steaming cups of coffee. It was a frigid, but sunny November day back home in Buffalo, and I was glad to visit my friend. Approaching the table, she shuffled her abundance of papers and made room for our warm drinks. Carefully, I placed the our drinks down onto the tiny wooden table making sure not to ruin her hours of school work. After a moment of adjusting, our conversation began as usual; I complained about college, she complained about graduate school. It was good to be home.

Our playful and lighthearted venting session regarding school continued until the conversation took a slight turn. My friend began to tell me something that made me immediately think about this course. She adjusted her black, thick-rimmed glasses with her index finger as she explained: Her HIPAA rights were violated. Again.

The first time it happened she was in college. Despite being incredibly intelligent and a great student, she was having many difficulties with school. Regardless of working hard and knowing the content, her grades continued to plummet because of her health. After going to a doctor and being properly diagnosed, she was allowed to take her tests in the disabillities center. In addition, HIPAA protected her private medical information.This made a significant difference in her test performance and her grades were ultimately saved. Her failing grades became perfect scores, and all was well.

Although her grades improved, she faced a new challenge; a nosy teacher.

Most of her professors didn’t question when she left to take exams. Others worried, but never pried. One specific teacher became curious. After pestering my friend various times, the professor took things into her own hands and asked the disabilities office to disclose the private medical information. Without my friend’s consent, the disabilities office revealed her private information. Unfortunately, my friend decided to not report the HIPAA violation, because her department was small and various incidents regarding this professor had been filed in the past. When complaints were filed, it ultimately been detrimental for the other students. In other words, their grades were affected. In addition, the professor was the head of the department. This incident influenced her decision to pursue a different major (Luckily the professor was just recently fired, but for different reasons).

Another incident occurred her first semester of graduate school. Although it was not to extent of her first experience, nor did it influence her life tremendously, it was still significant and inappropriate.

In previous classes, we discussed medical forms of consent. Although HIPAA is well known and is generally a positive law that helps protect one’s privacy, there are many flaws. It can easily be violated, and in my friend’s case, can determine their whole future. It is vital that consent is taken seriously.

 

 

 

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