If you’ve been following Jen’s story, you know that Bill’s, her father, condition was made worse by secondary emergency procedures instituted upon Alex’s, Jen’s brother, instructions to the ER doctors.
This was an emergency; Jen was 30 minutes away; and the records were 10 minutes from being received by the ER. When the records arrived, it was clear from all of the advanced directives that Alex was not considered a fiduciary or personal representative. He was not to be given any information whatsoever. And as mentioned in the previous article, the information needed to prevent the complication that Bill suffered arrived 10 minutes after Alex had given the doctors the green light.
In this case, because there was no third back-up to Jen and no way to contact her, the secondary steps taken could not have been avoided. The doctors proceeded with their hospital’s policy and that may not have been avoided even if Alex said he wasn’t a fiduciary. In emergencies, the difference between life and death can be seconds sometimes.
So if Bill doesn’t fully recover or recover at all, the ultimate responsibility for his disability or death will likely sit with Bill for not naming a third back-up. The guilt will, however, rest heavily on Jen and possibly Alex. However, the doctor who spoke with Alex isn’t completely exonerated. Once the doctor saw who was designated on the advanced directives, which included the HIPAA forms, to receive Bill and Carla’s personal health information, the doctor should not have had any further conversation about Bill’s condition with Alex. Nevertheless, he continued speaking with Alex and sharing Bill’s medical history, contrary to law. Privacy provisions under HIPAA prohibit sharing personal health information with anyone, even next of kin, unless the person is designated as a personal representative on the form.
Needless to say, Jen became even more distraught when she spoke with her attorney.
Now, Alex has faded into the ER waiting room background and Jen is visiting with Carla, whose condition has improved to stable. Jen can’t tell Carla about Bill though and is contemplating the worst case scenario for Bill.
Still, as Jen sits quietly while Carla sleeps, Jen reviews one document that provides a sliver of peace of mind at least for her parents, though the doctors probably won’t understand. But they don’t have to; families have their own overall personalities as these doctors will find out and the law is the law. More to come…