May 26, 2023

Caitlin Bernard given reprimand, fine by state board for violating patient privacy


Photo caption: Dr. Caitlin Bernard got emotional as the Indiana Medical Licensing Board discussed charges and sanctions against her at a hearing on Friday, May 26, 2023.  - Brandon Smith/IPB News

Photo caption: Dr. Caitlin Bernard got emotional as the Indiana Medical Licensing Board discussed charges and sanctions against her at a hearing on Friday, May 26, 2023.

Brandon Smith/IPB News

Dr. Caitlin Bernard – described as a “good doctor” Thursday by the head of the Indiana Medical Licensing Board – was found to have violated state and federal patient privacy laws.

Bernard received a letter of reprimand and a fine for charges related to abortion care she provided last year to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio.

Prior to seeing the patient, Bernard told an Indianapolis Star reporter that she was providing an abortion to a 10-year-old from Ohio.

In 4-1 votes, the Medical Licensing Board decided that was enough information to violate federal and state confidentiality laws.

Attorney General spokesperson Kelly Stevenson declared victory for patient privacy.

“It’s not right and the facts were presented today made that very clear,” Stevenson said.

The board unanimously sided against the attorney general on charges that Bernard failed to report child abuse and was unfit to practice.

"I don't think she expected this to go viral. I don't think she expected this attention to be brought to this patient," board president Dr. John Strobel said.

Strobel recommended the letter of reprimand and not any harsher punishment.

"I think she's a good doctor and I think she's safe to go back to practice," Strobel said.

Strobel cautioned all physicians to be more careful when discussing cases and patients.

During Bernard's testimony in Thursday's hearing, Deputy Attorney General Cory Voight asked her whether it was true that, had she not spoken to the Star, "we wouldn't be sitting here today?"

Bernard disagreed.

"I think that if the attorney general, Todd Rokita, had not chosen to make this his political stunt, we wouldn't be here today," Bernard said.

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Bernard and her attorneys didn’t speak to reporters after the licensing board’s 14-hour-long hearing. But Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, a colleague of Bernard’s who sat through the hearing, said the board’s decision sends a message to all physicians.

“That political persecution can be happening to you next for providing health care to your patients,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said the outcome of the case makes her rethink wanting to practice medicine in Indiana.

"However, I do call Indiana home and me leaving is not going to help our communities or our patients at all," Wilkinson said.

Bernard can appeal the board’s decision.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled Tracey Wilkinson's name as Tracy. That was incorrect.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

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