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The Navy Clarifies Medical Reporting Law

In a new advisory memorandum, the Navy has clarified when medical care providers should alert commanders of indications of misconduct from an active duty member. The notice comes following what has been recognized as "understandable confusion" on what to do with evidence of patient misconduct that is discovered during the course of providing medical treatment.

"Standard of Care"

Under the memorandum, healthcare providers are directed to follow the standard of care, which calls for documenting all medical evidence relevant to the reason why the active duty member is receiving treatment. This evidence includes:

  • The primary complaint/cause for the medical treatment
  • The studies ordered to help determine a diagnosis (like toxicology screenings)
  • The diagnosis given by the doctor
  • Any information that the patient volunteers

Using that standard of care, all relevant information should be entered into the patient's medical record. If that recorded information strongly indicates or confirms misconduct (such has drug abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, etc.) or indicates that an active duty member's ability to perform their duties is compromised, then military commanders should be alerted.

Possible Scenarios

To further clarify this standard and the many nuanced circumstances that can occur during medical treatment, the memorandum provides several scenarios with recommended courses of action for medical professionals. For instance, if an active duty member is having a routine check-up admits to using marijuana over the weekend, it is up to the medical provider to decide whether that information is relevant to their overall health (and fitness to serve their duty). If it is (and smoking anything almost always is), then it should be entered in the medical record-- thus qualifying it for reporting to commanders. So even while Soldier was not seeking treatment due to his use of marijuana, there is room for interpretation by the medical care provider.

More difficult to parse are scenarios involving mental health. The memorandum describes one example of an active duty member who admits to a mental health provider that they are "interested" in a terrorist group. Because mere "interest" is vague, the care provider may not be required to immediately report the active duty member (according to the standards of care). However, if the patient shares that they intend to join the group, that would be far more specific and indicative that the active duty member may be compromised and could be a potential threat to others. In this scenario, the medical care provider would likely be required to report the active duty member.

You can read all of the new memorandum, "Healthcare Provider Reporting of Active Duty Patient Misconduct Discovered During the Course of Health Care Treatment" here.

If you are a military servicemember facing criminal or administrative allegations resulting from medical treatment, then it is critical that you know what your legal options are. Joseph L. Jordan, Attorney at Law is a 10+ year veteran of the U.S. Army who now travels around the world to defend the rights and interests of accused armed service members.

You do not have to face the allegations against you without proven counsel by your side. Contact our firm today to request a free case evaluation.

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