You have been working at a law firm for the past five years. Your primary responsibility is to interview new clients, obtain basic information about their case and report back to your supervising attorney regarding the merits of the case.
One day, a client named Dr. Peter Plum walks into your office. After taking down some basic information about Peter, he begins to explain his problems to you. He explains that he is a licensed psychiatrist in the state of Freedonia. He has been practicing for the past 15 years and that he has run into some issues with one of his patients, Susan Scarlett. Dr. Plum has been seeing Susan for the past 7 weeks. Susan is a troubled girl in her mid-twenties. During the course of her treatment, Susan revealed many details about her life that she was embarrassed about. This was good for Susan since she suffered from severe depression and needed someone she could trust to talk about her problems.
One of Susan’s biggest problems was her boyfriend Mark. Susan explained to Dr. Plum that her relationship with Mark has always been a roller coaster. Some days the relationship was great, others days, not so much. On the bad days, Mark would be verbally and physically abusive towards Susan, which sent her into a tailspin of severe emotional distress. Thankfully, Susan sought help from Dr. Plum. Susan often expressed her fear of trying to break up with Mark, that perhaps he would hurt her. Dr. Plum was concerned about Susan’s safety and reported the issue to police. Mark was not arrested as a result of Dr. Plum’s report.
After 7 weeks of successful therapy, Susan moved from depression to an angered state. She repeatedly told Dr. Plum that she “wished he was dead.” On another occasion, she asked Dr. Plum whether she knew anyone who could help her learn how to fire a 9 millimeter pistol, the same type of gun Mark kept in his sock drawer. When Susan asked this of Dr. Plum, Dr. Plum asked her why she wanted to learn how to shoot a gun. Susan replied, “Because I want to shoot him in his sleep with his own gun.” Dr. Plum didn’t think Susan was serious, so she did not feel the need to call the authorities. The very next day, Susan shot Mark while he was asleep with his own 9 millimeter pistol. Susan was arrested by the Freedonia Police Department for Mark’s murder. She has denied any involvement in the murder.
The police decided to call Dr. Plum in for questioning. Specifically, the police wanted to know the nature of the discussions regarding Susan’s therapy. Dr. Plum refused to provide any details on the nature of Susan’s therapy, citing the Hippocratic Oath as well as Current Opinions of the Judicial Council of the American Medical Association Canon 5.05. After realizing that they were getting nowhere, the police decided to release Dr. Plum, threatening her with an obstruction of justice charge if she decided not to answer their questions regarding Susan’s therapy. The police also suggested that Dr. Plum may be forced to testify in court regarding the nature of her conversations with Susan.
The next day, Dr. Plum returned to her office, only to find a message from Susan’s insurance carrier, JKL Insurance Company. JKL has decided to deny Susan’s claim for medical services rendered by Dr. Plum. The only way JKL would pay up is if Dr. Plum provided JKL with details about what was discussed in their sessions. JKL claims that it needs this information to verify that Susan did not engage in insurance fraud, something she has done before. Dr. Plum agreed to send a file to JKL containing all of Susan’s personal information via regular email. Unfortunately, the file was accidentally sent to another doctor’s office, who called Dr. Plum to advise her of the error in transmission and that the file was immediately deleted once the error was realized.
After Dr. Plum leaves your office, your supervising attorney asks you to prepare a memo discussing all potential privacy-related issues in Dr. Plum’s case. You are to advise your supervising attorney on the likely outcome of each issue, citing appropriate authorities.