Immigration dispute at Florida hospital draws questions about HIPAA, patient rights

A recent incident involving U.S. Border Patrol at Aventura (Fla.) Hospital and Medical Center reflects a growing trend of immigration enforcement crossing over into hospital settings, The Washington Post reports. 

The incident in question involved an undocumented woman who suffered from a panic attack after she was pulled over on Oct. 13 by Border Patrol in Miami Beach, Fla., according to the report. Border Patrol followed her ambulance to Aventura Hospital, and an agent stayed in her treatment room or just outside the door for five hours. When her treatment was complete, she was immediately taken back into custody.  

Border Patrol's office in Miami told The Washington Post the agents followed standard procedure. Agents cannot conduct enforcement in hospitals, but they are permitted to remain with detainees until they are cleared by medical personnel, according to the report. 

Immigration advocate Thomas Kennedy, who is the political director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, told The Washington Post he believes the agent violated HIPAA. Customs and Border Protection guidelines require detainee medical information to be kept private, like any patient, and shared with immigration personnel only when they have a "legitimate need to know," according to the report. 

The incident is reflective of a broader trend of immigration officials intervening with patient access and patient rights, according to the report. 

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