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Tennessee Attorney General Obtains Confidential Medical Records of Trans Patients

Tennessee Attorney General Obtains Confidential Medical Records of Trans Patients

Vanderbilt University Medical Center

The patients were not told that their information had been given to somebody else until after it had happened.

In response to Republican faux outrage that started last September about the treatment of transgender Tennesseans, Vanderbilt University Medical Center handed over confidential records of patients receiving gender-affirming care to the state’s attorney general, Jonathan Skrmetti.

His office had requested the private treatment information, according to a new report in the Nashville Banner. There was no notification to patients that their unredacted medical records had been shared, let alone with an agency of a government notoriously hostile to transgender people.

A list of 106 transgender patients treated by doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center was received from Skrmetti’s office when the hospital learned that it was under investigation, the Nashville Banner reports.

Skrmetti aimed to access all transgender patient records, the outlet reports, when VUMC provided the documents to the state.

A class action lawsuit was filed on Monday by two of those patients.

According to the lawsuit, the hospital provided medical information to the attorney general violating the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the medical center’s privacy policies despite knowing the state targeted transgender people.

Identified only as Patients 1 and 2, the plaintiffs are not named.

“The attachment contained 106 entries of individual patients without explanation as to the source of the names on the list,” the suit reads. “The list included individuals who are: (1) on the state employees’ health plan and their family members, and (2) people who receive their health care through TennCare. Some of the VUMC patients whose records were disclosed were not even patients of the VUMC Transgender Health Clinic.”

Records were released legally in according to Skrmetti’s civil investigation demands, the hospital maintains.

As HIPAA defines, medical providers may only disclose protected health information if “de-identified information cannot be reasonably used.” According to the lawsuit, Vanderbilt revealed some of the most sensitive personal information possible, including images of genitals, information about gender identities that others were unaware of, confidential communications with treatment teams, and intimate knowledge about partners and sexual background.

The complaint continues, “Nevertheless, it appears that instead of pushing back, VUMC simply complied with the AG’s demand and turned over all requested records. Those records included the personally identifying information of its patients and some of the most intimate details of their private lives. VUMC did not inform its affected patients that it had done this.”

Per the complaint, the list includes state employees, their kids, and their partners.

Across the country, Republicans are targeting transgender people. With 26 bills aimed at LGBTQ Tennesseeans during this year’s session, the Republican supermajority in Tennessee’s legislature made no exception. Human Rights Campaign data shows Tennessee has passed more anti-LGBTQ bills than any other state since 2015.

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