Medical Board Reprimands Indiana Doctor for Child Abortion Case

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The Indiana Medical Licensing Board disciplined Dr. Caitlin Barnard, a doctor for a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio who traveled to Indiana for abortion treatment last year, in a highly publicized case.

The panel fined Barnard up to $1,000 for each of three charges of violating the Patient Privacy Act and fined her following an administrative complaint filed by Indiana’s Attorney General Theodore “Todd” Lokita. I plan to send a disciplinary letter to

Barnard, an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, came to national attention after an article was published last July. indianapolis star She recounted her experience in terminating the pregnancy of a child rape victim in Indiana after the Ohio abortion ban prevented her child from receiving medical care in her home state.

In her testimony, Bernard said, “As an abortion provider, I am committed to clarifying the impact of potential future legislation in Indiana and what it means for patients here in Indiana. I wanted to speak for you,” he said.

Lokita’s complaint alleges that Bernard violated state privacy laws and HIPAA when speaking to the media about patients, revealing confidential patient information. The complaint also alleges that she did not correctly report child abuse after the incident.

Barnard’s defense said the hospital’s risk assessment for HIPAA violations found that Barnard complied with privacy laws. Mr. Bernard said he was careful not to reveal personal health information when talking about patients and followed hospital policy when reporting care and apparent child abuse.

The state’s legal team highlighted the case’s widespread national attention, arguing that it put patients’ privacy at risk. Barnard shared her patient’s age, state of origin and pregnancy status with another doctor at a reproductive health meeting, which Shari Rudavsky of the Medical Association listened to. indianapolis star. Rudavsky then co-wrote a story containing Bernard’s account of her patient after having further conversations with him.

“I was very surprised by the attention,” Bernard testified, adding that she didn’t know her patient’s case would be the focus when she was speaking to reporters. “Unfortunately, I’m surprised that people don’t think young girls are often raped and become pregnant,” she said of her accusations that she fabricated the story. rice field.

The state also questioned Barnard’s alleged political intentions. At one point, her state attorney asked her, “Do you have a coat hanger tattoo on your body that says ‘trust women’?” Bernard’s attorney, Alice Morical, objected that the question was immaterial to the proceedings.

“If you keep quiet about your patients and don’t press this story, isn’t it true? [Indiana’s] special session [regarding abortion] Did you want to tell the media that we are not sitting here today? asked State Attorney Corey Voight to Bernard.

“No, I don’t think that’s right,” Bernard replied. “I don’t think we would be here today if Attorney General Todd Rokita hadn’t picked this as a political stunt.”

Referring to her advocacy for access to reproductive medicine, Dr. Bernard said, “My guess is that, for all doctors, abortion is not a political issue. Abortion is part of comprehensive reproductive medicine.” and we need to stay squarely in this realm.” of public health. ”

The state legal team also delved into child protection and state policy regarding the cross-state child abuse reporting process, arguing that Bernard should have reported the child abuse directly to the Indiana Department of Child Services. .

Mr. Bernard and the legal team, in accordance with hospital policy written to comply with state law, Mr. Bernard notified the social worker in charge of the case.

Indiana University Health Social Worker Stephanie Shuke later reported the alleged abuse to the Ohio Department of Child Protection, where she testified that the abuse occurred, and that the agency and Ohio law enforcement had already filed a case. He testified that he had confirmed that he was conducting an investigation. child abuse.

The state legal team also stuck to its decision to release the child to a home controlled by its mother in Ohio, suggesting Bernard should have taken more responsibility for the child’s safety after being discharged from the hospital.

“How did this girl get sent home for five days?” asked Mr. Bernard, Dr. John Strobel of the Indiana Medical Licensing Commission.

Barnard said the decision belonged to the Department of Child Services, saying: “The problem is, realistically, there are many situations where people live with their abusers long after the abuse has occurred. I think,” he said. “Fortunately, as a doctor, it wasn’t a decision I had to make. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be.”

Barnard said he cried when he spoke about the suspected perpetrator and at first thought it might be the victim’s brother. A 27-year-old man was later arrested on rape charges and his address was released, initially citing the two brothers as suspects.

After deliberation, the Commission ultimately determined that Mr. Bernard violated state privacy laws and HIPAA in discussing the case, in part because of the uniqueness of the case and the It was widely known. “I think it’s more important to protect patient information than to make claims to the media,” Strobel said.

But the board said the state needed Bernard’s services as one of the few health care workers accepting Medicaid, and Bernard did not anticipate the widespread media attention. decided to allow her to continue working. Low level disciplinary action.

The commission also found that Mr. Bernard did not violate any laws related to reporting abuse to appropriate authorities.

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    Sophie Putka is a corporate and research writer for MedPage Today. Her work has been published in The Wall Her Street Journal, Discover, Business Her Insider, Inverse, Cannabis Her Wire and more. She joined her MedPage Today in August 2021. follow

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