Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita filed a lawsuit Friday against IU Health and IU Healthcare Associates. The lawsuit claims they violated patient privacy and state law after a doctor shared the story of a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio who had traveled to Indiana for an abortion.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleges that IU Health illegally supported Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an IU Health OB-GYN, after she had shared the patient's story in a July 2022 IndyStar article. At that time, IU Health said their review of the case found she had not violated patient privacy laws.
In May 2023, the Indiana Medical Licensing Board ruled Bernard had breached state and federal privacy laws. However, many medical professionals and the American Medical Association disagreed with this ruling. Donna Shalala, former United States Secretary of Health and Human Services and who helped write federal HIPAA laws, said Bernard did not violate any federal laws.
The Board reprimanded and fined Bernard $3,000. The day after the licensing board’s hearing, IU Health released a statement saying they disagreed with the ruling.
Friday’s lawsuit alleges IU Health and IU Healthcare Associates inappropriately decided to protect the doctor rather than patient privacy.
The lawsuit states IU Health’s original review did not properly investigate Bernard’s actions. Rokita also alleges IU was inconsistent in its application of privacy policies ratified Bernard’s misconduct by publicly contradicting the licensing board’s decision.
“IUH has created confusion regarding what conduct is permitted under HIPAA privacy laws and the Indiana Patient Confidentiality rule,” the lawsuit says. “The inconsistencies and confusion threaten the privacy of its Indiana patients.”
IU Health said in a statement over email it will respond directly to Rokita's office on the case.
"At IU Health, we hold ourselves accountable every day for providing quality healthcare and securing privacy for our patients. We continue to be disappointed the Indiana Attorney General’s office persists in putting the state’s limited resources toward this matter. We will respond directly to the AG’s office on the filing," the statement says.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a statement from IU Health.