Hospital tries to silence critical blogger

The Paris Regional Medical Center, a Paris, Texas hospital owned by Essent Healthcare, Inc., has filed a defamation lawsuit against a blogger who has been critical of the medical care that the Paris Regional Medical Center has provided. At this stage in the litigation, the Paris Regional Medical Center’s main goal has been to unmask the identity of the anonymous blogger. After that, the Paris Regional Medical Center hopes to shut down the web site and curb the criticism that the blog, the-paris-site, has generated against the Paris Regional Medical Center.

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Clearly, the litigation poses some very prickly first amendment issues. Also of note is the fact that the Paris Regional Medical Center seems to be arguing that it needs to know who the blogger is because certain hospital employees have been disclosing patient information. Says a spokeswoman for the Paris Regional Medical Center, these are violations of HIPAA that the hospital needs to stop.

What the spokeswoman doesn’t explain, however, is how the hospital has standing to assert these violations of privacy rights, as it is the patients’ privacy at stake and as the patients have not complained about the disclosures. Furthermore, if the hospital believes its employees are improperly leaking protected medical records, it could easily conduct its own internal investigation to determine the source, thereby avoiding the need to infringe upon anyone’s First Amendment rights at all.

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