Missouri AG accused of violating HIPAA in transgender care probe: Lawsuit

Washington University in St. Louis has filed a lawsuit against Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, accusing him of violating HIPAA during an investigation into its youth transgender care center, The Kansas City Star reported Dec. 7. 

Mr. Bailey launched an inquiry into the Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital in February, after a former case manager raised concerns in a 56-page sworn affidavit. Jamie Reed, who says she worked at the transgender center from 2018 to November 2022, alleged that physicians prescribed cross-sex hormones and puberty blockers that worsened mental health outcomes in pediatric patients and continued to do so after parents had withdrawn consent.

Mr. Bailey used the state's consumer protection law to demand access to health records for more than 1,000 patients at the center, as well as testimony from a physician and nurse, according to the newspaper. The university's lawsuit — filed Dec. 6 in the St. Louis Circuit Court — argues the attorney general's investigation was directed at medical decision-making, not sales or advertising. 

"The patient records contain deeply personal information regarding medical history, care and treatment, treatment decisions, mental health assessments, and otherwise," the lawsuit says, arguing that this information should be protected under HIPAA. 

The university asked HHS' Office of Civil Rights whether Mr. Bailey's office was considered a "health oversight agency," which would allow it to receive protected information such as patient records; it received no reply, according to the lawsuit. 

In a Dec. 6 statement responding to the lawsuit, Mr. Bailey said the documents he requested are "critical to exposing that children were subject to irreversible, life-altering procedures without full and informed parental consent." 

Now, it will be up to a judge to determine whether Mr. Bailey's request was legal or requires modification. The "appropriateness" of Ms. Reed's disclosure of certain patient information in the affidavit is also under investigation by the university and the Office of Civil Rights, per the lawsuit.

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