Disciplinary board says it must have access to patient records

The clash between a doctor’s ethical responsibility not to disclose patient confidences and the state’s strong interest in investigating allegations of physician misconduct will be argued Tuesday before the Court of Appeals.

At the center of the controversy — which has attracted national attention — is Dr. Harold I. Eist, a respected Bethesda psychiatrist whom the Maryland State Board of Physicians has reprimanded and fined for defying its request for patient records during its investigation that he had allegedly over-prescribed medication.

The allegation was later found to be unsubstantiated and lower courts have overturned the board’s punishment of Eist for refusing to disclose patient records, prompting the medical agency’s appeal to the state’s highest court.

Eist, who has been battling the board since 2001, said he has difficulty understanding why the agency, which enforces medical standards, has sought to punish him for trying to preserve the confidentiality of patient records.

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