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Health system sued over patient’s medical marijuana disclosure

Health system sued over patient’s medical marijuana disclosure

A Michigan woman has filed suit against her health care provider, claiming its disclosure to her employer that she used medical marijuana violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and led to her forced resignation.

Lisa Richlich, an employee of Zeeland, Michigan-based Gentex Corp., was granted Family Medical Leave Act leave to have neck surgery provided she obtained medical certification from Dr. Todd Vitaz, an employee of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Spectrum Health Systems Inc., according to the Oct. 24 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in Lisa Richlich v. Spectrum Health Systems Inc.

The certification from Grand Rapids-based Spectrum stated Ms. Richlich used marijuana “about five times per week.” Ms. Richlich had been prescribed medical marijuana for her chronic pain by another physician, but she rarely used it, according to the complaint. Michigan law permits the use of medical marijuana.

Ms. Richlich unsuccessfully asked Spectrum to correct the medical history to reflect she used medical marijuana only rarely and to inform Gentex of this.

After learning Ms. Richlich used marijuana, Gentex offered her a severance to resign or otherwise be subjected to its substance abuse policy. 

Ms. Richlich accepted the severance package because she believed she would otherwise be “unfairly subjected” to a drug treatment regimen, with a likelihood of being discharged without any severance, said the complaint. 

The lawsuit says Spectrum violated HIPAA by disclosing her medical history to Gentex and charges it with negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Spectrum said in a statement: “Patient privacy and confidentiality is of paramount importance to Spectrum Health. However it is not our practice to comment on active litigation cases.”





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