McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC has filed a lawsuit on behalf of our client, “John Doe,” against the “Blonde Doc” Kim Hawkes for non-medical malpractice. The lawsuit alleges that Hawkes shared Mr. Doe’s private, confidential patient information with her lover, and ignored the proper boundaries of doctors and patients. The lawsuit names Hawkes as well as the Lexington Family Practice (owned by Lexington County Health Services District, Inc.).
Our client, Mr. Doe, started going to Lexington Family Practice for medical treatment in 2015; Kim Hawkes was his primary care physician. She remained his primary care physician for six years. In October 2021, Mr. Doe requested a refill of his medication, which Hawkes approved. What Mr. Doe did not know is that in 2021, Hawkes was having an affair with another patient, a fact Hawkes has readily admitted. The lawsuit alleges that not only did Hawkes discuss and disparage Mr. Doe with her lover, she also “gave her female paramour access to patients; medical records… and allowed her paramour to approve patients’ requests for [specific] medications.” In fact, it was the female paramour who approved Mr. Doe’s medication request, not Hawkes, even though the paramour is not a medical doctor nor should have been privy to any private medical information.
The lawsuit also alleges that Hawkes “sent her paramour text messages disclosing that John Doe was her patient and mocking him for grieving over the death of his wife in an appointment,” claiming he was “whining and crying” and was “completely pathetic.”
Our client, Mr. Doe, learned of all of this when Hawkes and her lover broke up, and Hawkes filed check-fraud charges against her paramour. That same paramour contacted our client and shared with him “the contents of a flash drive containing text messages between her and Dr. Hawkes.” Mr. Doe took copies of those messages to Lexington Family Practice; the manager advised him to contact Lexington Medical Center, who put another doctor in charge of his care.
What happened to Mr. Doe is not unique. As the lawsuit alleges, Hawkes shared more than just Doe’s information with her lover; she repeatedly violated the breach of confidentiality that she shared with other patients. Such an act constitutes non-medical malpractice, because per precedent, “at all times, the medical professional must exercise ordinary and reasonable care to ensure that no unnecessary harm [befalls] the patient.’”
Our client’s entire life has been disrupted. He was forced to find a new doctor, who changed his entire diagnoses and treatment. His private medical history and his personal stories were shared outside of the context of his sessions with his doctor. Because of the nature of his case, we have used a pseudonym because he would suffer additional harm and humiliation if his name were revealed.
Your right to medical privacy under the law
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, “is a federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.” The “Privacy Rule” is specific about who and what is covered under the law. Per the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), those entities are:
- Healthcare providers, such as doctors, nurses, and medical staff who “electronically transmit health information in connection with certain transactions. These transactions include claims, benefit eligibility inquiries, referral authorization requests,” and any other applicable transactions.
- Health plans, which covers anyone who works for insurance companies (plus Medicare and long-term care insures), regardless of what kind of insurance plan or coverage they provide. There is one exception to this group: “A group health plan with fewer than 50 participants that is administered solely by the employer that established and maintains the plan is not a covered entity.”
- Healthcare clearinghouses, which “process nonstandard information” they receive from applicable entities, like healthcare providers or health plans.
- Business associates, which include people and organizations “other than a member of a covered entity’s workforce using or disclosing individually identifiable health information to perform or provide functions, activities, or services for a covered entity.” These are the individuals who process billing or claims, for example.
Understand that there are times when one of these covered entities can disclose or use your protected information without your permission. For example, your doctor’s office does not need your permission to submit your information for billing purposes, just as a hospital does not need your permission to share your medical records with different doctors within the building.
What a healthcare provider CANNOT do, however, is share your personal medical history, treatment plan, or other care-related information with any random person. In our client’s lawsuit, it alleges that Hawkes shared personal, private, federally-protected information about our client with her lover and allowed that person to access a software program that had this same type of information in it about every one of Hawke’s patients. She allowed a non-medical professional to, essentially, prescribe medications. This is not only morally reprehensible; it is illegal under federal law.
McGowan, Hood, Felder & Phillips, LLC represents victims of professional malpractice throughout the state. If your rights were violated, we are here to help. Please call 803-327-7800 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment to discuss your case. We proudly serve clients throughout South Carolina.
Randy is the former President of the South Carolina Association for Justice. He has been certified by the American Board of Professional Liability as a specialist in Medical Malpractice Law which is recognized by the South Carolina Bar. Randy has also been awarded the distinction of being a “Super Lawyer” 10 times in the last decade. He has over 25 years of experience helping injured people fight back against corporations, hospitals and wrong-doers.
Read more about S. Randall Hood