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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 116704
Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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How does Hipaa apply to a recently deceased person My aunt

Resolved Question:

How does Hipaa apply to a recently deceased person? My aunt passed away, several days later the Chicago SunTimes made reference to her death with erroneous cause of death. She was not the initial subject of the article. Is her privacy protected?   The article was written regarding her tenant at the time of her death.
     The newspaper made this statement with an unknow informational source. It was not the actual cause of death and had no direct bearing on the subject of the article.
     Was her hipaa confidential information compromised?
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 years ago.
HIPAA rights only apply to insurers and medical providers. If anyone else released the information, it was not covered under HIPAA. Also, those rights do survive the death of the patient, but again they only apply to those entities (medical providers and insurers) that the statute governs. Cause of death is something that is public record through death certificates, but the medical records remain confidential under HIPAA.

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Customer: replied 8 years ago.

In the article i made reference to they indicated that my aunt died from dementia and complications from a fall. She did not. The cause of death was in fact copd. The death certificate was not available at the time of the article being written.

Can the media make reference to cause of death, whether accurate or not?

I guess what i am getting out of your reply is that newpapers/tv can just arbitrarily make statements of cause of death with no fear of violating the hipaa law?

Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 8 years ago.
The media is not governed under HIPAA, they are neither a medical provider or insurer. They obtain their information on these notices from family, and you need to look to the source of the information and determine if that person made a statement they knew was false when they made it AND then you need to prove some actual financial damage resulted from the statement in order to have a case for defamation/slander/lible, but this would be a personal suit to the deceased and thus it would not be a valid suit.

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