(CN) - A Connecticut agency has no obligation to release records that may establish whether an obstetrician secretly inseminated a patient with his own sperm, the state Supreme Court ruled.
The dispute stems from a malpractice action that an anonymous couple, Jane and John Smith, filed against Dr. Ben Ramaley in 2005.
Alleging that their twin girls born via intrauterine insemination did not share their father's DNA, the Smiths accused Ramaley of intentionally using his own sperm in the procedure.
The parties settled the case, and the results were sealed. The National Practitioner Data Bank, a federal clearinghouse for licensing boards regarding adverse actions taken against physicians, nevertheless gave notice of that settlement to the Commissioner of Public Health, which had issued Ramaley's medical license.
In an ensuing consent order, Ramaley did not contest that he had inseminated Jane with the wrong sperm, but he did not admit guilt or wrongdoing.
Without a DNA test, the board could not determine whether Ramaley had used his own sperm in the insemination procedure.
After learning about Ramaley's punishment - a $10,000 fine and a bar against performing any more inseminations - the Greenwich Time asked the Commissioner for records pertaining to the case.
The commissioner withheld the data bank records, which also included information from another federal clearinghouse, the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank.
Faced with a complaint by the Greenwich Time, the Freedom of Information Commission ruled that it should access records from the National Practitioner Data Bank, but not from the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank.
A Superior Court judge affirmed, but the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that information from both data banks must be kept confidential under federal law.
"Some of the same information collected in the Healthcare Data Bank is also provided to the Practitioner Data Bank," Justice Andrew McDonald wrote for the court. "It would be incongruous to conclude that information in the Healthcare Data Bank records is not subject to disclosure yet that same information is subject to disclosure once provided to the Practitioner Data Bank."