Discussion 04.1: Confidentiality

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Scenario (based on a real case from Wisconsin): An EMT was employed by a local volunteer fire department and provided emergency treatment to a female patient for an apparent drug overdose. The unresponsive patient was transported to a nearby hospital. Upon returning home, the EMT called a friend, telling her that earlier that evening, she assisted in taking a specific patient to the hospital emergency room for an overdose in a possible attempted suicide. Interestingly, even though the EMT had never met the patient before, the EMT had heard about the patient and her medical problems at a social event—as the woman who spoke about the patient at the social event was a friend of the patient, and was the same person the EMT telephoned after the patient’s apparent overdose. The patient sued the EMT and her insurance company.

  1. What tort theories might the plaintiff use to hold the EMT liable?
  2. Might there also be a statutory basis for liability? If so, what?
  3. Does it matter that the person the EMT revealed the information to had a personal relationship with the patient—why or why not?

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