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Revealing private health info could be considered malpractice

Some New Jersey residents may be interested in learning about whether it constitutes malpractice to disclose information about a person's HIV status. Although medical errors are commonly understood to be forms of malpractice, not everyone is aware that revealing private information without consent can also be an act of misconduct. In general, patients enjoy a right to privacy concerning their medical information that doctors are legally required to respect.

A court recently found that a physician had indeed committed malpractice by revealing confidential information about a patient's HIV status to an unauthorized third party. Sources say that the patient was being treated for kidney failure by the physician in question when the incident occurred. In the course of a consultation regarding the disease, the doctor told someone else in the room that the patient was HIV-positive. The court that heard the case found this to be a violation of the AIDS Assistance Act.

The patient's initial complaint alleged improper disclosure, violation of the AIDS Assistance Act and violation of privacy. At first, the hospital treated the complaint as though it were a defamation case and sought to have it dismissed for exceeding the applicable statute of limitations. However, since the patient affirmed that he was not claiming defamation, the court heard the case as a medical malpractice complaint under a broader statute of limitations and ultimately decided in his favor.

If a person believes that he or she has been the victim of medical malpractice, it may be worthwhile to talk to an attorney about the situation. A lawyer can investigate the circumstances of the dispute and amass relevant documentation about the complaint to determine whether a violation has indeed occurred. Hospital negligence that results in patient injury can potentially be grounds for legal action and claims for financial restitution.

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