Absolute Power: The Eist Case

“And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” So wrote Lord Acton in 1887in his famous dictum.
One hundred and twenty years later, this sentiment reverberates throughout the opinion written by Judge Deborah S. Eyler of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. The unanimous ruling in favor of Dr. Harold I. Eist in Maryland State Board of Physicians v. Harold I. Eist, M.D., is the fifth decision in support of his stand for patient confidentiality and professional ethics.
In more than 5 years of litigation, an administrative law judge (twice), two separate Maryland circuit judges, and now three appellate judges have held that the prosecution of Dr. Eist was unfounded.
The board’s attempt to discipline Dr. Eist arose out of a bitterly contested divorce and custody battle in which he was the treating psychiatrist for three members of the family (the wife and two of the children). The father, an attorney, had complained to the board that Dr. Eist was overmedicating these three patients and that Dr. Eist had behaved rudely toward him.
In keeping with its policy, the board automatically demanded the entire charts on all three patients. It later became clear that the board was prepared to comply with the father’s demand that the charts be turned over to him.
{“More on the Dr. Eist’s defense of his patients’ rights to control access to their sensitive mental health records.”~Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}