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Woman suing hospital after medical records were sent to her father

A young woman is suing a children’s hospital for sending her medical test results to her father, from whom she claims to be estranged.

Several years ago, when the woman was aged 18, she tested positive at Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) in Crumlin for a genetic disorder that is said to have been inherited from her father, according to a recently published court judgment.

She claims she made it clear to the hospital that she did not want her father to know the results. She alleged the hospital assured her the outcome would be confidential between her and the hospital.

The hospital has admitted negligence in sending the results to both her parents, as well as a third-party consultant. It claims the woman’s mother and father had already been aware she was undergoing testing.

Further damage to the relationship

In court documents, the woman, who cannot be identified due to a court order, said she was “devastated” to learn her father was aware of the result and that he had shared the diagnosis with other relatives.

The unauthorized disclosure she said continues to prey on her mind and has “further damaged” her relationship with her father, who “now had something over her”, she said.

She claims her father had previously acted badly when her sibling was diagnosed with the same genetic disorder.

The woman is seeking damages for negligence and alleged breach of duty, as well as for an alleged breach of her constitutional rights and her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The case details were outlined in a Court of Appeal pre-trial judgment that upheld an earlier order directing the woman to provide the hospital’s legal team with text messages and other communications between her and her father.

Seeking proof of allegations

Save for its admission of negligence in divulging the results, CHI at Crumlin requires the woman to provide proof of all other allegations in her action. It wants evidence that she made it clear to the hospital that she did not want the results sent to her father and that she suffered a personal injury or any material damage as a consequence of the admitted disclosure.

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The hospital said it requires the father-daughter messages to assess the nature of their relationship, if the father communicated an adverse reaction, and whether damage or harm was caused by the disclosure.

The woman appealed the High Court’s order directing her to hand over the communications, claiming the disclosure of “highly sensitive and private” communications was an unwarranted intrusion on her family life and privacy rights.

In his judgment on behalf of the three-judge court, Mr Justice Maurice Collins said the correspondences were “manifestly relevant” to the pleaded issues and there was a risk of unfairness to the hospital in defending the case if it was not permitted to view them .

The court, which also included Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly and Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh, dismissed the woman’s appeal.

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