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Elijah Dukes' divorce case and not understanding privacy laws

D-Ray Elijah Dukes is going through a divorce, and his wife is in a snit, because she wants medical records regarding Dukes and the team won't give them to her:

In July, the divorce lawyer for the wife of Elijah Dukes accused the beleaguered outfielder of using steroids.

Now, she is accusing the Devil Rays of trying to hide it.

NiShea Dukes' attorney, Catherine Real, said she has no direct evidence that Elijah Dukes is taking steroids, but dramatic changes in his physique and personality make his wife suspicious. In July, a judge gave Dukes 10 days to hand over a report from a recent drug evaluation. Real said the Devil Rays have the report and she has not seen it.

Court records show that Real has asked the Devil Rays to produce Dukes' medical records, but the team has argued that the release of those records would violate medical privacy laws.

After a Wednesday morning hearing, Real said she suspects the drug evaluation report includes information about Elijah Dukes and steroids.

"If that were not so," she asked, "why are they reluctant to release his file?"

Anyone who does divorce work can tell you there's a simple reason why the team would be reluctant to release the is a violation of federal law to divulge medical information about an individual without his permission.

The act is known as "HIPAA", and as of April 14, 2003, the privacy provision of HIPAA has been in place. The practical impact of the HIPAA privacy provision is that employers, doctors, or just about anyone else isn't going to release medical records without a signed authorization from the person whose records are being sought or a court order.

Dukes' wife running around accusing the D-Rays have conspiring to hide this, and the media running with her accusations, is pretty irresponsible and slanders the D-Rays, who are simply following federal law.

Professional sports teams are also having to be much more careful about what they reveal regarding their players as a result of HIPAA, which is why there is sometimes a lack of clear information available regarding a player's injury or health situation, since divulging information to the press (or anyone else, for that matter) without a player's express consent could violate HIPAA and result in sanctions.