Rokita sues IU Health for privacy violations stemming from Caitlin Bernard case

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Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has filed a lawsuit against Indiana University Health, alleging it failed to report, review and enforce privacy standards in connection with OB-GYN Dr. Caitlin Bernard talking publicly about an abortion she performed on a 10-year-old.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in the Indiana Southern District Court.

The case follows Rokita’s partial win in an action against Bernard. The state Medical Licensing Board reprimanded and fined the doctor but declined to suspend her medical license.

Now, Rokita is focusing on Bernard’s employer, IU Health, arguing in the 28-page complaint that the health system opted to protect Bernard and itself rather than the patient.

IU Health has said Bernard didn’t violate HIPAA privacy laws.

By contradicting the licensing board’s determination, the complaint says IU Health has created confusion about what is permitted under HIPAA privacy laws and state patient confidentiality rules.

“The inconsistencies and confusion threaten the privacy of its Indiana patients,” the lawsuit says.

The complaint alleges that because of Bernard’s disclosure of the abortion to the Indianapolis Star, the 10-year-old was designated as a “high profile patient” by a privacy investigator, who placed an alert on the patient’s electronic medical record.

But IU Health didn’t have a policy in place that required it to determine whether its privacy policies were violated, the lawsuit says, going on to allege the same for HIPAA and state confidentiality requirements.

IU Health also incorrectly concluded at the end of its risk assessment that Bernard’s disclosure to an unauthorized person didn’t constitute the type of breach that would require notification, the complaint says.

The complaint lists seven counts against IU Health: failure to implement or, in the alternative, failure to follow administrative, technical and physical safeguards to protect the privacy of protected information; failure to document disclosures of personal health information; failure to implement or, in the alternative, apply and document sanctions; failure to appropriately train its workforce; failure to notify patient of breach; failure to mitigate harm; and violations of Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.

The Attorney General’s Office said it has discovered instances where IU Health has sanctioned non-physician employees with termination for “far less egregious patient privacy violations” while failing to enforce similar policies or sanctions for its physicians.

“Doctors and all health care professionals should be able to rely on their employers and patients should be able to trust their doctors,” Rokita said in a statement. “When a hospital or other healthcare provider makes your private medical information public, that trust is decimated. As a result, the quality, delivery, and sustainability of our healthcare is significantly weakened.”

Indiana Lawyer has reached out to IU Health for comment.

The lawsuit restarts a legal battle related to Bernard that briefly came to an end after the licensing board’s decision.

Bernard and the Attorney General’s Office each had an opportunity to appeal the decision, but both declined.

In a statement announcing that decision, Bernard said she saw Rokita’s action against her as “just a small part” of the post-Roe v. Wade landscape.

Bernard continues to practice medicine.

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10 thoughts on “Rokita sues IU Health for privacy violations stemming from Caitlin Bernard case

  1. Todd Rokita is a loser. His personal ideologies are guiding his fishing expeditions using taxpayer money all the while. He provides nothing to our state but a heaping amount of shame. Protecting/emboldening child rapists should not be a both-sides issue, but IN Republicans have made it clear what side they are on. Abortion services are healthcare. IN women deserve better and we all know it.

    1. Dr. Bernard was the one protecting and emboldening a child rapist.

      No fan of Rokita and he definitely needs to let it go. And yes, the abortion in this case is completely justified.

      But Dr. Bernard fully deserved the censure and fine for her ethical violation, as do the doctors in Ohio who collaborated with her. Their first priority should have been to identify the rapist monster and get him away from the poor little girl. But it wasn’t.

  2. Vote, vote, vote…….the loser out. Rokita is an embarrassment. Michael G, funny / great comment. Not easy to laugh about anything related to our loser attorney general.

  3. We can count on Todd Rokita to continue to wisely spend tax dollars on his campaign to further attack these evil Doctors who… care for abused children? Yikes.

    1. “care for abused children”–hmmmm. Someone who clearly is getting the propaganda narrative which leaves key details out.

      Dr. Bernard only cared for the abused girl because the child became a cause celebre in her fight to make a case for abortion in states that were going staunchly anti-abortion like Ohio (and eventually Indiana).

      She made the act of shuttling the girl across state lines for the abortion a greater priority than the act of reporting the crime that got her pregnant: namely, the little girl was raped repeatedly (there’s no legal form of sex with a child that age). Not only did Dr. Bernard allow the girl to continue living with her rapist even after she knew the girl was pregnant, but the man shouldn’t even be in the country; he was an illegal immigrant. Even worse, the entire activity between man and the little girl took place with the mother’s cognizance. Most likely the child should become a ward of the state.

      Dr. Bernard allowed her personal politics take take precedence over reporting statutory rape. She reported it eventually, but she did not report the crime first. This misprioritization is an ethical lapse for which she is paying a very minor fine and receiving a censure. That’s good enough. Though Rokita has made a point of further dragging her name through the mud in Indiana, she has already fled to Illinois where she should find lots of political support. I don’t feel she should lose her license for this, but, when it comes to “care for abused children”, she certainly didn’t prioritize abuse.

  4. Not sure what is to be gained here. The family has not, to my knowldedge, made any complaint about the doctor’s conduct. The Medical Licensing Panel worked very hard to not really punish the doctor, while at the same time allowing Rokita to keep his law license. His license was likely up for review if he’d lost at the panel, as several heavyweight Republicans had filed complaints or threatened complaints with the Disciplinary Commission. In giving him a partial, albeit inconsequential win, the complaints were moot. I suspect this latest salvo will result in IU seeking, by way of counterclaim, attorney fees and expenses if IU prevails. And, if Rokita loses (it would be Rokita, not the State of Indiana, losing) I think the disciplinary complaints will resurface. Go big, or you’re going home, Todd…