Court: Gary doctor not required to disclose birth defects before adoption

2012-08-13T19:45:00Z 2012-08-14T11:12:22Z Court: Gary doctor not required to disclose birth defects before adoptionDan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com
August 13, 2012 7:45 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | A New York couple who adopted a Gary child can't sue the delivery doctor for not telling them prenatal tests showed the child had significant brain abnormalities.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday that Victor and Lynell Jeffrey failed to submit a request for health records that complied with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Indiana law. As such, Dr. Paul Okolocha was not required to send the requested records, the court said.

On Feb. 1, 2006, the birth mother visited Okolocha for prenatal tests. A sonogram showed the child had abnormalities associated with brain development delay, profound retardation, paralysis, spasticity and other defects requiring lifetime medical care.

The child was born Feb. 12. Two days before the birth, the Jeffreys' attorney faxed a request to Okolocha's office addressed "to whom it may concern" requesting medical records, including prenatal test results, in advance of a planned adoption.

Okolocha did not send the records.

Nevertheless, the Jeffreys finalized the adoption Aug. 25. Later testing confirmed their child has significant and permanent learning and physical abnormalities.

According to court records, the Jeffreys would not have completed the adoption had they known of the child's birth defects. They sued Okolocha claiming the Gary doctor had a duty to disclose the child's condition.

In a 3-0 decision, the appeals court said because the Jeffreys' request for medical records failed to meet specific privacy requirements of HIPPA and state law, the doctor had no obligation to release the records.

The fact that Okolocha later illegally sent the records without proper authorization after the Jeffreys paid his newborn services bill was not relevant to the case, the court said.

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