From The Cancer Chronicles #3
©1989 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
Stanislaw R. Burzynski, M.D., Ph.D. of Houston has won an important round
in his battle against the Aetna Life Insurance Company. An Illinois judge
has ruled that Aetna's attorneys overstepped their bounds by seeking confidential
records of patients from other insurers. He ordered them to pay over $11,000
in legal fees to Abady and Jaffe, the New York law firm that represents the
Aetna had originally sought such records as part of its $600,000 RICO
(Racketeering Influenced and Corruption Organizations Act) suit against
Burzynski, the discoverer of antineoplastons. The Wall Street Journal recently
called the RICO act "a horror" and a "Frankenstein's monster," adding,
"Only Congress has the power to kill the creature" (November 15, 1989).
If Aetna wins, it can collect three times this amount, plus legal costs,
effectively putting the clinic out of business. Grace Monaco is Aetna's
consultant on the case.
The present suit arose when the court twice refused to allow Aetna's attorneys
to see complete medical records of patients covered by other companies. It
did allow them to see some such records, provided that all private information
was deleted. Frustrated by these restrictions, Aetna's attorneys "decided that it was
perfectly okay to go to these insurance companies directly...and seek information
from them," in the words of U.S. District Judge Michael Mihm. Aetna's attorneys,
Hinshaw and Culbertson, had a Springfield, Illinois clerk send subpoenas
to fellow insurance companies.
"It's a little hard for me to understand why legal issues would be assigned
to secretaries and clerks," the judge stated in his decision, October 13,
The other insurance companies thought they were facing "an official mandate
of the Court," said the judge. The result was that the attorneys received
private records of Dr. Burzynski's patients in disregard not just of the
judge's orders but of confidentiality. "I'm very troubled" by this situation,
the judge told the lawyers in a phone conference, calling their indifference
to his order "almost unconscionable."
Judge Mihm did not disqualify Aetna's attorneys from the case. But he ordered
them to pay Abady and Jaffe's fees in connection with this complaint. He
also barred Aetna from any use of this information and ordered the data
segregated. Judge Mihm's decision is the latest slap at the attorneys of
the billion dollar company.
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