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Parent as Witness to Accident

Post Series: Ethics Scenario Archive

Scenario

I got in a car accident today in front of a client’s house. The client’s mom came outside after she heard the accident and saw the position of the cars. I had to move my car because I was blocking the street. Would it be appropriate if I ask her if she could be a witness? Or would that be an ethical violation? I have to go to court in February. When the police officer asked if I knew the client’s mom I told him I couldn’t answer that because of HIPAA.

Response

  • Committee Input: Protection of the consumer (PHI) as intention; as a “witness” there is no obligation to disclose nature of professional relationship.
  • Exploration: What aspects of HIPAA are related to incident (where is the breach)? What is the nature of the professional relationship/context/environmental factors? Impact on harmful effects of multiple relationships – is this applicable in the specific situation? How does that relationship impact whether or not to request support? Check organization’s internal policies and procedures; reach out to internal HR or HIPAA Officer for guidance (incident report??).
  • Codes: 1.06
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