Discovery Needs Trump Medical Privacy Concerns

Thanks to Dennis Hetzel at the Ohio Newspaper Association for bringing this one to my attention. Here’s an opinion from the Ohio Supreme Court that takes on the dilemma posed when a medical malpractice litigant seeks medical information about his treating physician. Donald Ward contracted Hepatitis B following surgery at the Summa Health System in Summit County, Ohio. In an effort to determine how that happened, he subpoenaed records concerning the medical history of practioners to whom he was exposed during his stay, including the surgeon, Dr. Debski. The hospital resisted, citing a claim that a doctor cannot be required to disclose information about a patient. But the Supreme Court found that the request was for Dr. Debski, in his role as patient, to disclose his medical condition. And the “doctor/patient privilege” doesn’t allow a patient to withhold that information. Courts generally don’t like privileges – they consider them impediment to the truth. So it’s no surprise really that the court limited the scope of the privilege here. Given the votes of the justices — 6-1 – this one wasn’t even close.