HIPPA and the Clergy

Read this Overlawyered

This bizarre desire to codify and classify all interactions, and criminalize some, is having some unintended consequences. Go figure. The over-regulation of medicine, without any demonstrable benefit to the vast majority, continues.

Now, does anyone think this will be repealed, or just infinitely refined through infinite additions and interpretations. The speech police aren’t far behind this. I predict that within 5 years it’s “HIPPA says you cannot talk about “x” with your patient”, and as we’re powerless to banish the camel’s hindquarters (its nose having gotten in long ago), we’ll have no recourse but to comply.

Go read the HIPPA page, and see if you are interested in wading throught the minutiae, all solidly in the law, and waiting to bite you in the butt if you work in medicine. Becaue, you know, it’s a civil right to have my every patient interaction codified and subject to bureaucratic overregulation.

Update: broken link now fixed. Thanks, Geena!


  1. To save people some wading, this exact question is answered as part of the HIPAA FAQ:

    Yes, the HIPAA Privacy Rule allows this communication to occur, as long as the patient has been informed of this use and disclosure, and does not object. The Privacy Rule provides that a hospital or other covered health care provider may maintain in a directory the following information about that individual: the individual?s name; location in the facility; health condition expressed in general terms; and religious affiliation. The facility may disclose this directory information to members of the clergy. Thus, for example, a hospital may disclose the names of Methodist patients to a Methodist minister unless a patient has restricted such disclosure. Directory information, except for religious affiliation, may be disclosed only to other persons who ask for the individual by name. When, due to emergency circumstances or incapacity, the patient has not been provided an opportunity to agree or object to being included in the facility?s directory, these disclosures may still occur, if such disclosure is consistent with any known prior expressed preference of the individual and the disclosure is in the individual?s best interest as determined in the professional judgment of the provider. See 45 CFR 164.510(a).

  2. Although the HIPAA Privacy Rule seems to allow for the disclosure of this information, if the patient requests, having been admitted to the hospital many times since HIPAA hit, I have never been asked if I wanted to have this personal information available.

    In fact, with my Grandmother, when she was admitted to a care facility within her community, even when we requested that this information be shared, we got the “HIPAA forbids us from doing that.”

    It seems in many cases, HIPAA has provided a way for healthcare organizations become even more removed and impersonal.

  3. HIPPA’s fans will point to the regs and say “It’s allowed here…” I say, why is every interaction now a federal case? Why on earth did the government think that lists of what patients can be visited by what pastors (et. al.) needs to be codified? This is (yet another) incredible abuse of federal power into interactions it has absolutely no legitimate business being in.

    Oh, and if you want a real laffer, pull up the sections where HIPPA has to answer its obligations under the Paperwork Reduction Act and the UNfunded Mandates provisions. Guess what: citing no actual studies or data whatever, they don’t see any problems.

    The desire of bureaucrats to regulate every single aspect of our lives marches on, unabated.

    (“but it’s allowed” they say; “it’s not your place to say what speech is allowed” say I).


  1. Overlawyered says:

    HIPAA and the clergy

    Among the many other effects of the new federal medical privacy law (see Oct. 23, Nov. 9, Jan. 21): clergy “now can look in on only those patients who have requested visits”. Result: if a longtime parishioner is admitted to…