INDIANAPOLIS – After 14 hours of testimony, debate and witness testimony, the Indiana Board of Licensing has reached a decision in the case involving Dr. Caitlin Bernard.
The hearing came in response to a complaint by Attorney General Todd Rokita to the board that Dr. Bernard violated the Patient Privacy Act and failed to properly report the alleged abuse.
The board had to determine both issues.
First, they looked at whether Dr. Bernard violated privacy laws when he told a member of the media about a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio who was traveling to Indiana for an abortion.
The conversation took place at a reproductive rights rally back in June 2022.
They then looked at whether he violated Indiana state abuse laws when he knew a patient had been sexually assaulted.
During testimony throughout the day, the board heard from several witnesses from both the state and Dr. Bernard’s legal team.
The state called an “expert” on the stand to discuss HIPPA and why it believed it violated the law.
Bernard’s team did the same, but their “expert” shared how he didn’t release any protected information.
An IU Health social worker was called to testify.
She shared IU Health’s sexual assault procedure.
He stated that it is hospital policy for a social worker to report this abuse, Bernard agreed.
Both said it happened immediately in this case.
Bernard and his legal team also said Bernard knew officials in Ohio were aware of the abuse, that law enforcement was involved, and that a DCS case was already open in the state.
The Board unanimously decided that Dr. Bernard had in fact reported the abuse appropriately and to the correct authorities.
The charges filed with the AG’s office were dismissed.
The board also unanimously agreed that Dr. Bernard was fit to practice.
One of the board members shared that there is no doubt that he is an excellent doctor with significant expertise.
Asked during the testimony whether Dr. Bernard believed the hearing would have taken place on Thursday had he not spoken to a reporter, Bernard would not agree.
“I think if Attorney General Todd Rokita hadn’t picked this as his political stunt, we wouldn’t be here today,” Bernard said.
Bernard expressed that she felt sharing patient-related details was important because of her role as a reproductive health advocate.
“As part of my advocacy to support access to comprehensive reproductive health care, I think it’s important to understand that they were going to call a special session and there was a real possibility that they would ban abortion in Indiana without any exceptions.” Such patients would be forced to travel out of state for abortion care,” Bernard said.
The board found that Dr. Bernard violated patient privacy laws when he shared details of the 10-year-old’s case with a reporter.
Votes were split on patient privacy issues, with the majority agreeing with the state.
The board found that Bernard had done so on three occasions, both at the federal and state levels.
“As we said last year, this case was about patient confidentiality and the trust between the doctor and the patient that was violated. What if it was your child, your parent or your sibling in a medical crisis, and the doctor you thought was by your side, ran into the press political For reasons? That’s not right, and the facts presented today make that very clear,” said Kelly Stevenson of the Attorney General’s Office.
Bernard was fined $1,000 per count (the state’s maximum fine) and given a letter of reprimand.
The letter of reprimand does not affect Dr. Bernard’s ability to practice and care for patients.
“I think it’s incredibly unfortunate because Dr. Bernard’s bullying sends a message that this can happen to any doctor who provides comprehensive evidence-based health care to their patients,” said Dr. Tracy Wilkinson, a colleague of Bernard’s.
Bernard and his lawyer did not comment to the media after the proceedings.
Several of Bernard’s colleagues sat through the proceedings and spoke to reporters afterward.
“I’m horrified, as doctors, we’re just trying to do the best thing for our patients and their families, and this decision really calls into question our ability,” said Dr. Carolyn Rose.
Wilkinson said he believes Bernard did nothing wrong despite the board’s decision.
“This sends a message to all doctors everywhere that political persecution can happen to you for the health of your patients,” he said. “I think I would say one lesson [I learned from all of this] is that you have to be incredibly brave and incredibly true to your values and the things you stand for, because what happened today could happen to any of us.”
When asked how he would describe Dr. Bernard Wilkinson said, “Dr. Bernard is the most compassionate health care provider. I would send my daughter to him and any family or friend that I have that I know needs his car. I told them. Don’t pay attention and Don’t pay attention to the politicization that has happened today and what has been happening for the last year and believe me when I say that he is incredibly good at what he does and the best person they could care for.”
Some of Bernard’s colleagues said the hearing was disappointing.
“We’ve been here for 13 hours listening to our friend and our colleague get sued for his patient care and evidence-based healthcare, and it’s incredibly demoralizing as a physician,” Rose said.
Rokita’s office says that they are satisfied with the time that the council devoted to the consideration of the issue.
“We appreciate the extraordinary time and attention of the Medical Licensing Board. Our team has done a great job of creating and understanding the truth,” Stevens said.
Based on complaints and sanctions, the Board will issue a final order within 90 days.
After that, either side has 30 days to file an appeal in Marion County Superior Court.
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