Doctor Reveals Patient HIV Status but not Covered Under Medical Malpractice Act
While G.F. was a patient at St. Catherine Hospital, Inc., doctor Vatsal Patel told G.F., in the presence of G.F.’s visiting co-worker, that his “CD4 count is low” and that he needed to see his infectious disease doctor as soon as possible. Patel, who assumed the woman was G.F.’s fiancé, later apologized to G.F. for making the statement while she was in the room.
G.F.’s co-worker and friend recognized the inferences of Patel’s statements as being related to HIV/AIDS and subsequently severed all ties with G.F. He also suggested that “the word is out” at his workplace and that co-workers now “change their path” when they see him coming their way.
In August 2015, G.F. filed a proposed complaint for medical malpractice against St. Catherine and Patel. A medical review panel came to a split decision that found no breach of standard of care as to the hospital, but concluded G.F.’s claims against Patel hinged upon “a material issue of fact not requiring expert opinion, bearing on liability for consideration by the court or jury.”
G.F. then filed a complaint against St. Catherine, Patel and the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund in Marion Superior Court in January 2018, seeking a declaration of law that his claims fell outside the ambit of the Medical Malpractice Act. After permitting the hospital and doctor to file a belated response, the trial court ultimately denied G.F.’s declaratory judgment motion, finding G.F “willingly and voluntarily subjected himself to the MMA.”
But the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed that decision in G.F. v. St. Catherine Hospital, Inc., Vatsal K. Patel, D.O., and Indiana Patient's Compensation Fund, 18A-PL-2460, finding the trial court abused its discretion in permitting St. Catherine and Patel’s request for additional filing time and its designation of evidence in support thereof.