The Supreme Court

This paper is about a court case from 2002. It involves a Pilot having HIV and the government releasing his medical history during a joint agency investigation. In this paper, we will discuss how the case in question relates to the nature, sources, and functions of the law. In 2002, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and SSA (Social Security Administration) were forming an investigation about pilots hiding medical conditions. A pilot is supposed to tell the FAA of all medical conditions and medications that they take, along with any type of disabilities before being approved to fly.

In order to do the investigation, they compared pilot’s information with any people who had applied for social security benefits. During this investigation, they found that this particular pilot had applied for long term social security benefits in 1995, due to being diagnosed with HIV. In 1985, the pilot had been diagnosed with HIV, and failed to tell the FAA of this when he renewed his pilot’s license. So, in 2007, this pilot sued the government for violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.

He stated that the government disclosed his personal medical information to the FAA and it was against the law. HIPAA was passed in 1996. It was meant to help protect workers from losing health insurance coverage as they change or lose a job, and control the confidentiality of personal and private information of each patient. In this case, the government definitely violated the HIPAA laws, but the court was not going to make them pay mental anguish compensation to this pilot. In doing this, the court is basically saying that the government did not have to follow their own laws.

This is a case of the government writing a law where every term is not spelled out. It was not spelled out specifically that the government could disclose the medical information to such agencies as the FAA. Because of this, it was a long court case, as the judges were not sure what ruling to make. The basis for HIPAA is to protect patients, but what about the people who work for the government? It seems the laws do not apply to them. The whole basis of this case is whether it was ethical for the SSA to disclose the pilot’s medical information to the FAA. If the court rules in favor of the government, it opens up more problems.

It can mean that patients will not feel that their information shared with medical professionals is secure, and that whistle blowers who report instances of abuse and fraud would not be protected. This could lead to many problems within health care that were supposed to be fixed with the HIPAA laws. The government states that the focus is on the privacy act’s language. The law took effect in 1974 to protect the privacy of individuals identified in information systems maintained by federal agencies. The law regulates the collection, use, and dissemination of data by such agencies (Gallegos, 2011).

The bottom line of the case states, “Is the government liable for noneconomic damages for disclosing a person’s medical records to another agency? ” The federal court said no, and ruled that the government violated the privacy act, but they are not responsible for noneconomic damages. But, the 9th U. S circuit court of appeals disagreed, and ruled that when a federal agency internationally or willfully fails to uphold its record keeping obligations under the law, that the plaintiff should be entitled to recover both pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.

Although the pilot won his case in the 9th U. S circuit court of appeals, the FAA appealed the case in the Supreme Court and wound up winning. This case is something that is very important to all of us as citizens and patients, because this ruling clearly seems to go against the spirit intent of the Privacy Act of 1974 that protects all citizens from unlawful conduct by the government. The supreme court states that they can rule this way because the term “actual damages” can be used interchangeably, depending upon the specific status in which it is found.

The Supreme Court also stated that it was clear that the intent of the law was only to provide for money damages, and the pilot did not ask for money damages. References: Supreme Court hears case involving medical record disclosure. (2011, december). amednews. com, (), . Retrieved from http://www. amednews. com/article/20111226/profession/312269947/6/ prentice, s. (2012, may). Stanmore Cooper vs. FAA Et Al . avitationpros. com, (), . Retrieved from http://www. aviationpros. com/article/10691187/staying-legal-stanmore-cooper-vs-faa-et-al? page=2