Vanderbilt University Medical Center Faces Lawsuit Over Privacy Violation of Transgender Clinic Patients

Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is facing legal action as two patients from its transgender clinic filed a lawsuit in Nashville Chancery Court on Monday. The patients allege that VUMC violated their privacy by releasing their medical records to Tennessee’s Attorney General, Jonathan Skrmetti.

According to the lawsuit, VUMC turned over records of over 100 people to the Attorney General’s office, which is conducting a medical billing fraud investigation unrelated to the patients or their families.

While VUMC claims it was legally obliged to comply with the request, the patients argue that the medical center should have removed their personally identifiable information before sharing the records. They contend that Tennessee authorities have displayed hostility towards the rights of transgender individuals, making VUMC’s actions particularly egregious.

The tweet below verifies the news:

Tennessee has been at the forefront of enacting anti-LGBTQ laws among conservative-led states, drawing concerns from families and advocates about the harmful impact of such policies. The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of all clinic attendees whose private medical records were released to Skrmetti.

The attorney general’s office stated that VUMC has been providing gender-related treatment billing records since December 2022, assuring that the records have been kept confidential. The office also clarified that it is not a party to the lawsuit and directed inquiries to Vanderbilt.

In response to the legal action, VUMC spokesperson John Howser stated that health systems often receive such requests during billing investigations and audits. He emphasized that the decision to release patient records is taken seriously, even when compelled by law, as in this case.

The lawsuit reveals that many of the patients affected are state workers, their adult children, spouses, or individuals covered under TennCare, the state’s Medicaid plan. Shockingly, records for over 100 current and former patients were shared without redaction of their identities.

The plaintiffs describe the emotional toll they have endured since learning about the data breach, including fear for their safety, increased anxiety and distress affecting their ability to work, and the adoption of heightened home security measures. They accuse Vanderbilt of negligence leading to emotional damage and violating patient privacy and consumer protection laws.

The lawsuit seeks monetary compensation, improved security protocols, an injunction preventing further records disclosure without notice, an acknowledgment of Vanderbilt’s privacy policy violation, and an admission that the policy inadequately informs patients of their rights regarding data disclosures.

Vanderbilt informed the patients months after the records were shared, only after the requests came to light in a separate court case. Discussions between Vanderbilt’s legal team and the attorney general’s office are ongoing regarding the relevant information required for the investigation.

The attorney general’s requests were made after conservative commentator Matt Walsh publicized videos in September, featuring a medical center doctor discussing gender-affirming procedures as lucrative revenue streams for hospitals.

In response, Vanderbilt suspended all gender-affirming surgeries for minors in October following pressure from Republican lawmakers and Governor Bill Lee, who demanded an investigation.

Tennessee lawmakers subsequently passed a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, which was recently upheld by a federal appeals court after being blocked by a lower court judge.

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