You have been working at a law firm for the past five years. Your primary responsibility is to interview new clients, obtain basic information about their case and report back to your supervising attorney regarding the merits of the case.
One day, a client named Dr. Sandra Smith walks into your office. After taking down some basic information about Sandra, she begins to explain her problems to you. She explains that she is a licensed psychiatrist in the state of Hypoville. She has been practicing for the past 12 years and that she has run into some issues with one of her patients, Lindsay Johnson. Dr. Smith has been seeing Lindsay for the past 5 weeks. Lindsay is a troubled girl in her mid-twenties. During the course of her treatment, Lindsay revealed many details about her life that she was embarrassed about. This was good for Lindsay since she suffered from severe depression and needed someone she could trust to talk about her problems.
One of Lindsay’s biggest problems was her boyfriend Jason. Lindsay explained to Dr. Smith that her relationship with Jason has always been a roller coaster. Some days the relationship was great, others days, not so much. On the bad days, Jason would be verbally and physically abusive towards Lindsay, which sent her into a tailspin of severe emotional distress. Thankfully, Lindsay sought help from Dr. Smith. Lindsay often expressed her fear of trying to break up with Jason, that perhaps he would hurt her. Dr. Smith was concerned about Lindsay’s safety and reported the issue to police. Jason was not arrested as a result of Dr. Smith’s report.
After 5 weeks of successful therapy, Lindsay moved from depression to an angered state. She repeatedly told Dr. Smith that she “wished he was dead.” On another occasion, she asked Dr. Smith whether she knew anyone who could help her learn how to fire a 9 millimeter pistol, the same type of gun Jason kept in his sock drawer. When Lindsay asked this of Dr. Smith, Dr. Smith asked her why she wanted to learn how to shoot a gun. Lindsay replied, “Because I want to shoot him in his sleep with his own gun.” Dr. Smith didn’t think Lindsay was serious, so she did not feel the need to call the authorities. The very next day, Lindsay shot Jason while he was asleep with his own 9 millimeter pistol. Lindsay was arrested by the Hypoville Police Department for Jason’s murder. She has denied any involvement in the murder.
The police decided to call Dr. Smith in for questioning. Specifically, the police wanted to know the nature of the discussions regarding Lindsay’s therapy. Dr. Smith refused to provide any details on the nature of Lindsay’s therapy, citing the Hippocratic Oath as well as Current Opinions of the Judicial Council of the American Medical Association Canon 5.05. After realizing that they were getting nowhere, the police decided to release Dr. Smith, threatening her with an obstruction of justice charge if she decided not to answer their questions regarding Lindsay’s therapy. The police also suggested that Dr. Smith may be forced to testify in court regarding the nature of her conversations with Lindsay.
The next day, Dr. Smith returned to her office, only to find a message from Lindsay’s insurance carrier, XYZ Insurance Company. XYZ has decided to deny Lindsay’s claim for medical services rendered by Dr. Smith. The only way XYZ would pay up is if Dr. Smith provided XYZ with details about what was discussed in their sessions. XYZ claims that it needs this information to verify that Lindsay did not engage in insurance fraud, something she has done before. Dr. Smith agreed to send a file to XYZ containing all of Lindsay’s personal information via regular email. Unfortunately, the file was accidentally sent to another doctor’s office, who called Dr. Smith to advise her of the error in transmission and that the file was immediately deleted once the error was realized.
After Dr. Smith leaves your office, your supervising attorney asks you to prepare a memo discussing all potential privacy-related issues in Dr. Smith’s case. You are to advise your supervising attorney on the likely outcome of each issue, citing appropriate authorities.