I am finding out that my ex-wife may have kept from me a genetic predisposition to Down syndrome and other abnormalities in the baby. The physician did not tell me about this either. I want to know what were my rights as the father. Did they have an obligation to disclose this information?

1 Answer 1


The regulations known as HIPAA are here. A good place to start is with who the regulations apply to. §160.10 lays that out: a health plan, health care clearinghouse, care provider, their business associates, and the Inspector General. Family members are not regulated entities. Subpart E regulates individually identifiable health information (such as "person X has condition Y") – this is protected information. §164.502 states that

A covered entity or business associate may not use or disclose protected health information except as permitted or required by this subpart or by subpart C of part 160 of this subchapter.

The first permitted use / disclosure is that the information may be revealed to the individual (the individual). Under 164.502(a)(2)(1) they are required to reveal information to an individual "when requested under, and required by §164.524 or §164.528" (you have a right to see your own record; you have a right to know who knows). 164.502(g) requires the covered entity to treat the "Personal Representative" as the same as the individual, and then there is a list of conditions surrounding being a personal representative, reducing to being empowered under law to act on behalf of the individual in making health decisions (it gets complicated in dealing with minors). 164.510 covers disclosure in emergencies, and under (b)(2) allows disclosure to a family member with advance consent of the individual. And so on. There is no general rule "and the covered entity may / must reveal private information to an interested individual", even a spouse, without consent of the individual.

In other words, the doctor has an obligation to not disclose this information, unless permitted by the individual.

  • 1
    Just so I am sure I understand; I spent my time, money, emotions on a dishonest female thinking that I am starting a family and can not hold this person accountable for this damage? This lady left my house two days after her green card was approved. I would think I may have a claim if I can demonstrate that she was genetically abnormal and hid this from me.
    – maverick
    Sep 27, 2016 at 17:51
  • Not legally speaking, in terms of a legal obligation to reveal personal information. Immigration issues are a separate matter.
    – user6726
    Sep 27, 2016 at 18:10
  • Your story is familiar. The moral is: It is more important than ever to do full background screening on any prospective spouse. Unfortunately, few people think to do that before marriage. After marriage is often too late. Sigh.
    – user3270
    Sep 27, 2016 at 18:49
  • She left after she got the interim (2 year) green card, or after it was made unconditional? Either way, contact INS, they might be interested.
    – mkennedy
    Sep 27, 2016 at 19:10
  • @mkennedy-She left less than a year after our marriage. Thanks for the comments.
    – maverick
    Sep 28, 2016 at 13:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .