Planned Parenthood and doctor-patient confidentiality
From: Kim Storment
Subject: P.P. and doctor-patient confidentiality
I missed the original article in the Post; relevant parts of one follow-up
I did clip is the third message in this chain.
The following is a "Special Bulletin" from P.P. of the St. Louis Region:
DATE: May 24, 1991
TO: Planned Parenthood Advocates
FROM: John S. Meyer, Jr., President
Paula M. Gianio, Executive Director
Planned Parenthood of the St. Loius Region is now facing our greatest
crisis in recent memory. But it is not just a crisis for PPSLR -- it is a
crisis for all Planned Parenthoods and, indeed, potentially for all health
As a strong Planned Parenthood supporter, you may have been watching the
news with some consternation in the past few days. Although certain
information must remain confidential, we want you to know as fully and as
accurately as possible what is happening. We are in the middle of what
may be a long and difficult legal battle.
On March 15, we learned that a 15 year-old girl had accused a physician
working at our Fairview Heights clinic of improper touching during a
pelvic and breast exam.
Immediately, we took very responsible, direct and positive action. We
relieved the physician of his duties. We began our own internal
investigation. Though it has always been our policy to offer patients the
option of having a female attendant in the exam room during her visit, we
began to ask each patient to put her preference in writing. We made sure
that all clients would receive care by making other health care providers
available. And, from the beginning, because of our deep concern to learn
the truth, we have cooperated as fully as possible with the investigation
of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) to
resolve this matter.
Then DCFS asked us to hand over the names and addresses of ALL girls ages
13 to 17 examined by the physician in question at our clinic in the first
quarter of this year. We have refused because this would violate the
fundamental principles of physician-patient privilege and our patient's
constitutional right to privacy. We asked the courts to affirm these
Shockingly, the court ruled: "The statuatory phycian-patient privilege
does not apply to Planned Parenthood." The court ignored completely the
NOTE: (1) Italics in the original.
(2) For what it's worth, PPSLR does not receive Federal funds.
I don't =think= they receive any state funding from Illinois
=or= Missouri, either.
The court then ordered PPSLR to hand over the names and addresses and,
further, gave DCFS permission to go into the schools to find the young
girls and question them.
This order has chilling repercussions. Already, we are receiving calls
from minors, from their parents and from adult patients. They are scared
for themselves and for their children, scared to come for the services
Our response to this order is unwavering. We are bound legally, morally,
and ethically to uphold the physician-patient privilege. We will NEVER
violate the confidentiality, privacy and trust of our patients.
We have spent many hours in consultation with our lawyers here in St. Louis
and with legal counsel from Planned Parenthood Federation of American and
the American Civil Liberties Union.
The potential repercussions of this issue are much farther-reaching than
Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region. If upheld, this ruling could
affect all 2.4 million clients at the 876 Planned Parenthood clinics
across the country. And if Planned Parenthood and our patients can be
exempted from the fundamental principles of physician-client privilege and
the right to privacy, what about other family planning providers? Other
clinics? Or any other classes of health care providers?
Today, we begin the appeal process which may take us to the Illinois
Supreme Court. We will go to every length to protect our clients.
Confidentiality is a deeply held value of this organization. It is
fundamental. It is an essential part of our mission.
You can be a big help by being an informed supporter. Follow the issue in
the media, share the accurate information you have, especially with minors
who may be fearful of seeking the health care they need from us. PLANNED
PARENTHOOD OF THE ST. LOUIS REGION WILL NOT BETRAY OUR CLIENTS' TRUST AND
PRIVACY. [Italics in the original.]
[Plea for money. Closing.]
Robert Goodrich, "Clinics Get Reprieve In Girl's Suit", St. Louis
_Post-Dispatch_, May 25, 1991, 1B.
Planned Parenthood of St. Louis won a brief delay Friday in a judge's order
that it must disclose names and addresses of teen-age girls examined at
the clinic in Fairview Heights.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services wants to question
the girls to see if any corroborate allegations by a 15-year-old two
months ago that a physician at the clinic "engaged in improper conduct
during a gynecological examination."
Associate Judge Robert P. LeChien of Belleville had ordered Planned
Parenthood to turn over the information by Tuesday.
But Rex Carr, a well-known lawyer from East St. Louis, entered the case
Friday on Planned Parenthood's behalf. He asked for a two-day delay to
determine how best to appeal LeChien's order. LeChien granted the delay
over the objection of Kay Giancomini, an assistant Illinois attorney
general representing the Department of Children and Family Services.
Giancomini said state law required that such questioning be done quickly
and that contacting the girls would soon become more difficult because of
Planned Parenthood says the judge's order could affect doctor-patient
confidentiality and patient privacy at its clinics throughout Illinois,
and would apply to hospitals and medical clinics.
In granting the delay, LeChien called Carr's request "a little bit amazing"
in view of the stipulations worked out by both sides last week to
safeguard patient privacy.
But another attorney for Planned Parenthood said the stipulations did not
imply that his agency had agreed not to appeal or release information.