Supporters of doctor and hospital disagree with Indiana sentence for talking about abortion of 10-year-old girl

INDIANAPOLIS — Supporters of an Indianapolis doctor expressed frustration Friday at the Indiana Medical Board’s ruling that she violated patient privacy laws when she spoke with a reporter about a newspaper about the abortion of a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim.

The board’s vote Thursday night to issue a letter of reprimand against Dr. Caitlin Bernard will not limit her ability to practice medicine in the state, and the hospital system where she works said it stands by its conclusion that which she respected the rules of confidentiality. The medical board dismissed allegations that Bernard had failed to properly report suspected cases of child abuse and was unable to have a medical license.

Some of Bernard’s colleagues criticized the Medical Licensing Board’s vote and the state’s attorney general’s pursuit of disciplinary action against it as attempting to intimidate doctors in Indiana, where the Republican-dominated legislature has enacted an abortion ban last year that the courts have upheld.

Bernard’s revelation of the girl traveling to Indiana to receive abortion drugs turned her case into a flashpoint in the national abortion debate days after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v . Wade last summer. Some Republican media outlets and politicians have incorrectly suggested that Bernard fabricated the story until a 27-year-old man was charged with rape in Columbus, Ohio. During an event at the White House, President Joe Biden almost shouted his outrage at the case.

Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita, who is staunchly anti-abortion, touted the board’s decision as supporting his arguments that Bernard broke “trust between doctor and patient.”

The board’s vote to reprimand Bernard and fine him $3,000 fell far short of the medical license suspension that Rokita’s office had asked the panel to impose.

Lawyers for Bernard argued Thursday that officials at Indiana University Health, her employer and the state’s largest hospital system, last summer reviewed what she said about the youngster’s treatment. daughter and had found no violations of the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

IU Health said in a statement on Friday that it was glad Bernard remained among its physicians.

“We disagree with the board’s decision regarding patient privacy regulations and respect the HIPAA risk assessment,” the hospital system said. “We believe Dr. Bernard has complied with privacy laws.”

A request for an interview with Bernard was refused on Friday by a spokeswoman for his lawyers.

Bernard’s attorneys did not say on Friday whether they would appeal the council’s decision in the state court system. They released a statement questioning the board’s reprimand vote for not specifying what protected health information she had wrongly disclosed.

“While we totally disagree with the letter of reprimand on issues of confidentiality, we are proud of Dr. Bernard for championing access to compassionate medical care and for his consummate professionalism during these unprecedented procedures,” said his lead attorney, Alice Morical.

Bernard has always defended his actions. She testified on Thursday that she thought it was important to use the ‘real world impacts’ of anti-abortion laws and that she did not expect so many doubts about her account of such a young girl becoming pregnant .

“The idea that it was something someone was making up or was a lie or something that doesn’t happen surprised me a lot,” Bernard said.

Witnesses and attorneys for the attorney general’s office argued at the licensing hearing that it was Bernard’s combination telling an Indianapolis Star reporter about the girl’s age and home state, which She had exceeded the six-week limit then in Ohio for an abortion and the procedure would occur within days, which would create a violation of patient confidentiality laws.

Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, a pediatrician who works with Bernard at IU Health, attended the board hearing to support Bernard and called his case a “political persecution” that doctors should worry about.

“I think it’s incredibly unfortunate because Dr. Bernard’s bullying sends the message that this can happen to any doctor who provides comprehensive, evidence-based health care to their patients,” Wilkinson said.

Anti-abortion groups have called on Indiana hospitals to reconsider whether to keep doctors who perform abortions on staff.

“Dr. Bernard willingly and willingly put his patient – ​​who was not consulted or disposed – in the public light for his own agenda,” said Marc Tuttle, president of Indianapolis Right to Life.

Members of the medical board — five doctors and an attorney appointed or reappointed by Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb — dismissed separate allegations that Bernard violated state law by failing to report child abuse to state authorities. ‘Indiana. Bernard and IU Health officials said she followed Indiana reporting requirements and hospital policy in notifying hospital social workers of the child abuse — and that the rape of the daughter was already being investigated by authorities in Ohio.

The board’s split decision on Bernard’s allegations left no clear winner in the case, said Laura Iosue, an attorney who conducted medical licensing investigations at the state attorney general’s office. for seven years until 2020. The vote will lead doctors to take a closer look at what they do. talk, she said.

“Everyone is going to be a little more careful,” Iosue said. “I think everyone is going to have their antennas now, based on this decision.”

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