A new proposed law traveling through the TN state legislature may affect future malpractice cases – and not necessarily in a good way.

The bill – HB2979 (also SB2789) – would allow attorneys for health care providers in medical malpractice cases to access all medical records of the patient filing the claim, including mental health records and any records related to drug or alcohol abuse, even if the previous treatments had nothing to do with the current malpractice case.

The law would also allow the health care provider’s attorney to interview the patient’s doctors without the patient or patient’s attorney present.

What could this mean for people trying to file medical malpractice cases in Tennessee?

For one, this new proposed law might intimidate anyone with a history of mental health issues, alcoholism, etc, into not filing a legitimate medical malpractice case because of concerns about privacy issues.

Say, for example, that a health care provider recently injured you through negligence or misconduct. If 20 years ago you sought treatment for a drug problem, you may not want to go through the humiliation of making that public – potentially in a court of law – even if you do have a strong malpractice case.

In addition, it means your private medical information – everything from ultrasounds to kidneys stones – can be discussed without you or your attorney even being present for the conversation.

According to the bill, the information gathered can be used against you in the case. So say for example that your medical history shows treatment for bipolar disorder when you were in college. Even though now you’re 50 and in stable mental condition, and even though you’re suing over something completely unrelated, the defendant’s lawyers could still bring up your mental health history in court. Not only could that humiliate and intimidate you as a witness, but it could also make your case appear much more complex than it actually is.

Sponsored by Rep. Vance Dennis of Savannah and Sen. Brian Kelsey of Collierville, the bill passed through the TN Calendar and Rules Committee on Thursday (4/19/2012) and will be up for debate next Monday (4/23/2012).

If you’ve been injured in a medical malpractice case or want to know if your case could be considered malpractice in the first place, our Memphis medical malpractice lawyers can help. We can look at the law and let you know what to expect with your malpractice case.

The conversation is free, so contact us today (901-327-1212).

 

(Photo: Sanja Gjenero)