If my psychiatrist gave information about my case to my father without my consent, can I sue him and get my records destroyed?

UPDATED: May 7, 2012

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If my psychiatrist gave information about my case to my father without my consent, can I sue him and get my records destroyed?

I was held under 48 hour emergency papers 3 years ago. I told the psychiatrist I did not want my father in the room; I was over 18 years old at the time. He then, in front of me, brought my father into the room and told him I was being held for the night. I was also never given a copy of the mental health law that I was being held under. I want to sue him for a Hippocratic oath violation and get those records destroyed because it is impeding my career.

Asked on May 7, 2012 under Malpractice Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) You can't get medical records of your stay destroyed; not only is there nothing improper about the facility and pyschiatrist keeping records of a legitimate visit or stay, but they are actually required to keep them by ethical and insurance rules.

2) You can't get records of a civil committment destroyed, since those are public documents.

3) The psychiatrist may have committed a breach of the governing medical ethical standards, and you can certainly report him to the state agency which liceneses doctors and pyschiatrists for that, but you most likely cannot sue him. That's because to have a viable lawsuit, you need not just wrongoing on the part of the other party, but also damages (such as an economic injury) *directly* caused by the wrongful act. Telling your father about your being held would not directly have caused  you any cognizable losses or injuries (the law does not provide recovery for embarrassment or being distraught)--even if your father then in turn misused the information to injure you, the psychiatrist is not responsible for that misuse, since there was an intervening action by another party, which broke the causal chain.

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