Legal battle looms as son accuse hospital of disclosing medical record to mother
A mother’s attempt to shield her son from his wife over claims she was a ‘gold digger’ has landed a mission hospital in trouble after the patient threatened legal action against the medical facility, for allegedly disclosing his confidential medical records to the parent without his consent.
St Joseph Shelter of Hope, a mission-run medical facility in the outskirts of Voi in Taita-Taveta County, is said to have disclosed confidential medical report on Jack Kimotho Rugendo’s health to Rose Wanjiru, his mother, who is identified as unauthorized third party.
In a demand letter sent to the hospital and seen by KNA, Mr. Fredrick Mwabili of Luyali Alumasa and Co. Advocates, representing the complainant, accused the hospital of breaching doctor-patient confidentiality by disclosing his client’s records to the mother without his explicit permission.
The letter further said the medical report issued by the hospital portraying Mr. Kimotho as an alcoholic was fabricated, untrue and defamatory.
Mwabili stated his client had obtained a separate medical report from another hospital that declared him healthy and fit.
In what is likely to become a titanic legal battle over ethical standards and right to privacy, Mwabili demanded that the hospital admits liability and propose a settlement within a week or face a legal suit.
“We are under firm instructions to demand your unequivocal admission to the highlighted breaches within seven days of the date hereof and a proposal for settlement failure to which we will institute legal proceedings against you,” reads part of the letter.
Contacted for comment, St. Joseph Shelter of Hope Administrator, Karl Kameru, said the institution’s lawyer was handling the matter even as an internal probe was launched to verify the truth of the potentially damaging claims.
He reiterated that confidentiality and right to privacy was one of the core values of the facility and allegations that patient’s information had leaked out were being taken very seriously.
“Patient’s privacy and client’s confidentiality remains a core value in our service charter. Our legal team is working on claims contained in the letter and will respond appropriately,” said Kameru.
He further said that all medics working at the facility were professionals who knew the ethics of their profession and anyone who might have breached such rules will be dealt with accordingly.
But in a strange twist likely to exacerbate the row, it has emerged that the medical information sought by the mother from the facility was used as grounds to warn Kimotho’s wife to keep away from him.
In a cease-and-desist letter from Nyakoni Ratemo and Co. advocates who are representing the mother to the complainant, it accuses the wife of obtaining money through false pretense from their client’s son and demands she stop associating with him.
The letter cites a medical report from St. Joseph Hospital as grounds to prove that Kimotho was a chronic alcoholic and is not of sound mind which made him incapable of making informed decisions.
The letter further claims the wife’s relationship with Mr. Kimotho was not based on love but on ‘unjust enrichment and /or benefit emanating from it’ as there was evidence of an audio recording where the wife was caught stating she would not sire a child with him and was in that relationship purely for the monetary benefits as she was advised by her uncle.
The letter demanded she stops visiting, associating or communicating with Kimotho failure to which she will face legal action. However, Mwabili dismissed the demands terming them as ‘not tenable’.
Doctor-patient confidentiality is a practice based on the belief that a person should not be worried about seeking treatment for fear that his condition will be made public.
This is aimed at making patients comfortable and open up to their doctor for the best remedy to their problems. Any breach leads to eroding of trust between a doctor and the patients. This confidentiality covers not only the patients’ confessions but also the doctor’s opinions, diagnosis, perceptions and any communication between them.
Medical records and documents and any communication between the patient and other medics is also classified as confidential.
However, if the patient willingly requests his records to be made known to a third-party, there is no breach of this confidentiality pact. The confidentiality can also be broken through a court order that can authorize a doctor to provide a patient’s medical records.
A doctor can also divulge patient’s information if he determines on medical grounds that the patient is in no position to give a consent.
The 2013 Kenya National Patients’ Right Charter by Ministry of Health states that patient’s right to confidentiality shall be upheld except when the consent has been given expressly or disclosure is allowed by law or in the public interest. This confidentiality is maintained even after the patient’s death.
By Wagema Mwangi