Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In Snavely v. Piedmont Medical Center, the Court of Appeals considered an action for breach of patient-physician confidentiality. At base, Snavely was accompanied to the Emergency Room by her sister-in-law. The sister-in-law also accompanied Snavely into the examination room. While examining Snavely, Dr. Zellner opined that Snavely had contracted hepatitis. He referred Snavely to another doctor to confirm the type of hepatitis. Snavely’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law accompanied her to this second doctor visit. It was confirmed that Snavely had Hepatitis B. Snavely shared this condition with her sister-in-law and brother, and they eventually informed Snavely’s employer, a local restaurant, that she had Hepatitis B. The restaurant fired Snavely and she brought suit against the medical care providers. The trial court granted summary judgment for the providers and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

The Court held that the record was clear that Snavely chose to take family members back to the examination room and did not ask them to leave during the examination. She also willingly shared a pamphlet that discussed Hepatitis B and preventative treatments. Hence, she at least passively consented to disclosure of her medical condition.

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