Only months after receiving a positive diagnosis for HIV, a Mt. Sinai patient endured another living nightmare when the hospital faxed his HIV status to his workplace. The man, who declined to name himself in court documents (opting for “John Doe”), told the New York Daily News that, “For years now, I have been struggling to cope with how my life has changed by the unbelievably careless act of the people who I trusted with my care.” His lawsuit seeks $3.5 million in compensation from the damages caused Mt. Sinai Hospital’s employee’s negligent behavior.
The horrific accident took place in 2014 when the man, after learning of his HIV status, directed Mt. Sinai-St. Luke’s Hospital to mail his medical records to a post office box. The Upper West Side hospital instead faxed it to his office where, according to court documents, it was passed around the office and eventually made its way to his supervisor. The man said that he had neither processed the diagnosis himself nor told his family, and was then in a situation where his entire office had intimate knowledge about his health and sexual history. Unsurprisingly, he quit. As an actor, he said he had trouble finding work after the incident because he was worried his new co-workers may know and judge his HIV status.
Not just an appalling breach of personal privacy, the hospital’s actions were also illegal under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a far-reaching federal law protecting patient’s privacy and healthcare records. The United States Department of Health and Human Services launched an investigation almost immediately and Mt. Sinai-St. Luke’s eventually settled out-of-court with the federal agency for $387,000.
The Upper West Side Hospital has admitted to its mistake – describing it as “egregious” and a “breach,” according to court documents. But, despite admitting guilt and paying the federal government’s hefty fine, Mt. Sinai-St. Luke’s has so far refused to settle with the man they harmed. The hospital has declined to comment on the lawsuit.