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Indiana Attorney General Sues Hospital for Violating 10-Year-Old Rape Victim's Privacy

'Patients should be able to trust their doctors because trust is the foundation of the patient-doctor relationship,' said AG Todd Rokita

Attorney General Todd Rokita is suing the largest hospital in Indiana for violating the privacy of a 10-year-old girl from Ohio who traveled to the state to get an abortion.

The victim was repeatedly assaulted by then-28-year-old Gerson Fuentes and became pregnant at age 9. Her mother took her to Indiana in 2022 to get an abortion just after her 10th birthday as she was too far along to undergo the procedure under Ohio law. 

Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who performed the termination, discussed the girl’s case with The Indianapolis Star. President Joe Biden also referred to the case when denounced with United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In his lawsuit against IU Health and its associates, Rokita alleges the institution failed to properly enforce HIPAA. The lawsuit cites seven counts against IU Health, including failure to implement or follow administrative, technical or physical safeguards to protect the privacy of protected information, failure to appropriately train its workforce, failure to notify a patient of a breach, and failure to mitigate harm.

“We are requesting that the court issue a permanent injunction to prevent IU Health and the other defendants from continuing to violate HIPAA and for the maximum amount of fines, restitutions, penalties, and damages allowed by law and that includes violation of Indiana’s medical privacy laws,” Rokita said in a recorded statement on Sept. 15. “Doctors and all health care professional should be able to rely on their employers and patients should be able to trust their doctors because trust is the foundation of the patient-doctor relationship.”

“Without trust, we do not have reliable, honest healthcare,” said the attorney general.

The Attorney General’s Office said Bernard spoke to a reporter about the case at a political rally and the story ran the front page “while the mother and daughter were still at the hospital for recovery and observation.”

“The 10-year-old’s treatment was a very private and sensitive matter, as was the rape and abuse she suffered that resulted in her pregnancy,” said the office in a statement. “Neither the little girl nor her mother gave the doctor authorization to speak to the media about their case.”

Rokita previously filed a complaint with the Indiana Medical Licensing Board against Bernard for violating the minor rape victim’s privacy. The board agreed Bernard had violated privacy laws and fined her $3,000, per The Hill. Though she was formally reprimanded on Sept. 14, she was permitted to keep her medical license.

Bernard attested to her own innocence and repeatedly defended her actions, telling the board … that she followed Indiana’s reporting requirements,” said Fox News. “Bernard also said she notified hospital social workers about the child abuse and confirmed the girl’s rape was already being investigated by Ohio authorities. She and her attorneys also argued that she did not release identifying information about the girl.”

Bernard told the board that she went to the reporter and discussed the girl’s case because she feels “that it’s incredibly important for people to understand the real-world impacts of the laws of this country about abortion.”

“I think it’s important for people to know what patients will have to go through because of legislation that is being passed, and a hypothetical does not make that impact,” the doctor said. 

Fuentes is a Guatemalan national who was illegally residing in the country when he was arrested for raping the 10-year-old. His paternity was confirmed following a DNA test of the aborted fetus. He listed his address as the girl’s mother’s apartment. The victim’s family begged Common Pleas Court Judge Julie Lynch to support a plea deal that had been offered to Fuentes, who ultimately pleaded guilty to two counts of rape in July and was given life in prison. He will go before a parole board after serving 25 to 30 years.

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