If my doctor broke doctor-patient confidentiality by sending my parents my medical report in the mail, can I sue?

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If my doctor broke doctor-patient confidentiality by sending my parents my medical report in the mail, can I sue?

I’m 16 years old. When I visited my doctor I told her that I was no longer a virgin and that I still threw up occasionally (I have history of bulimia). She told me all this information was going to be confidential between the two of us. She even proceeded to make my records confidential so other doctors could not see. She sent my parents my medical report which disclosed that information. I was very upset so I emailed her asking her why she would do such a thing. She replied within hours apologizing because she “made a terrible mistake”. She admitted she betrayed my trust. Can I sue her for breaking confidentiality?

Asked on June 21, 2014 under Malpractice Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

You can't simply for being upset, because lawsuits are not designed to vindicate your rights or punish wrongdoing--they are designed to compensate for economic losses, for physical injury, or *sometimes* for deliberately inflicted (not careless) acts which inflict emotional harm. Your doctor being careless and causing you embarrassment, or to be upset, is not the sort of "injury" the law provides compensation for, so you can't bring a lawsuit. You could file an ethical complaint against her, however, with the state board or agency which regulates and licenses doctors.


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