Ohio's Patient-Physician Privilege: Whether Planned Parenthood Is a Protected Party

By O'Neill, Melissa | Journal of Law and Health, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Ohio's Patient-Physician Privilege: Whether Planned Parenthood Is a Protected Party


O'Neill, Melissa, Journal of Law and Health


 
  I. INTRODUCTION 
 II. HISTORY 
     A. Where the Right to Medical Privacy Originated 
     B. The Origin of the Patient-Physician Privilege 
     C. What is Planned Parenthood? 
III. OHIO LAW: THE PATIENT-PHYSICIAN PRIVILEGE 
     A. The Scope of the Word "Physician" 
     B. The Scope of the Term "Patient" 
     C. The Scope of the Term "Communication" 
     D. Definitions of Physician, Patient, and 
        Communication Applied to Planned Parenthood 
        Staff Members 
     E. Exceptions to the Patient-Physician Privilege 
 IV. OUTSIDE THE REALM OF OHIO STATUTE: PRIVILEGED 
     COMMUNICATIONS AT A FEDERAL LEVEL 
  V. FEDERAL REGULATIONS; THE ROLE OF THE HEALTH 
     INSURANCE PORTABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY 
     ACT OF 1996 
     A. Is Planned Parenthood a Health Care Provider? 
     B. What is Health Information? 
     C. Does the Law Enforcement Disclosure Provision 
        Apply to Records Such as Pregnancy Tests? 
     D. Conclusion as to HIPAA 
 VI. SHOULD PLANNED PARENTHOOD BE PROTECTED BY 
     STATUTE? 
     A. Legislation Protecting Planned Parenthood and 
        its Clients is Appropriate 
     B. Justifications for Adopting Legislation that 
        Specifically Extends a Privilege to Planned 
        Parenthood and its Patients 
     C. A Model of Legislation that Extends a Privilege 
        to Planned Parenthood and its Patients 
VII. CONCLUSION 

I. INTRODUCTION

May 30, 2002, a horrible tragedy struck the small, rural town of Storm Lake, Iowa. (1) It was on that dark day that the dead and dismembered body of a two-day-old baby was found in a dumpster at a Buena Vista County recycling plant. (2) As expected, the quiet community was stricken with grief and anger over the tragedy. (3) Immediately the Buena Vista County authorities began their search for the killer of the infant. (4) The investigation's main focus turned to finding the baby's mother, as she was the prime murder suspect. (5) However, after an extensive investigation, police still had no clue as to the identity of the infant's mother. (6)

The problem faced by Buena Vista County authorities is not a unique one. (7) The problem of abandoned babies has surfaced in Ohio as well. (8) When a high school senior (9) in Columbus, Ohio, became pregnant, she was too scared to do anything about it, so she just concealed her pregnancy and secretly hoped for a miscarriage. (10) She even went off to college, where she gave birth to a baby girl on the floor of her dorm room. (11) She wrapped the baby girl in clothes, put her in a grocery bag and laid her inside of a trashcan outside the dorm. (12) The young woman could not handle the guilt of abandoning her child though, and thus placed an anonymous phone call to campus security, complaining of noise coming from outside the dorm room. (13) As the young mother watched from the window of her dorm room, the baby was found alive by campus security in the garbage can. (14) Eventually, investigators were able to determine the identity of the mother of the abandoned child and the young girl was subsequently convicted of Child Endangerment. (15)

Police in Bedford, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, faced a similar problem as the authorities in Columbus, Ohio, but unlike the Columbus police, they were unable to find the mother of an abandoned child. (16) The situation the Bedford police faced was much more similar to the one in Buena Vista County. (17) Police detectives in Bedford made the gruesome discovery of a dead body of a baby girl that was found buried in a wooded area. (18) The body was found wrapped in plastic bags and buried inside a "5-pound potato chip can." (19) "About 1-2 inches of concrete was poured over the top, then the potato chip can was buried in the ground." (20) Police were only able to ascertain that the baby was white and was born approximately eight months into the pregnancy. (21) Authorities had originally kept the discovery quiet, thinking that too much publicity would have resulted in the mother, or anyone with information, being too scared to come forward. …

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