Sunday, July 30, 2006
Did privacy law figure into newborn’s death?
Report: Girl charged with murder used law to hide pregnancy from parents
The Associated Press

Updated: 7:26 p.m. MT July 28, 2006
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Authorities said a 17-year-old girl facing a murder charge in the death of her newborn told lies and used privacy laws to hide her pregnancy from her parents, even as they tried to get medical attention for her.

Prosecutors said Cheyenne Corbett gave birth to a girl in the shower of her parents' home on Sunday. Police discovered the infant's body wrapped in a towel in her bedroom. An autopsy determined the baby died of asphyxiation.

Corbett's adoptive father had taken her to a physician in Phoenix in July, but she signed a form requesting that no information be given to her parents under the privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known as HIPAA, The Denver Post reported Friday.

"She had a supportive family. Here they are, trying to do something, and their hands are tied," Deputy District Attorney Tammy Erett told the newspaper. "When they deny that information, what are you going to do?"

Erett did not immediately return an after-hours call on Friday.

Corbett's attorney, Gordon Gallagher, said she concealed her condition because she was frightened.

"Obviously she was trying to hide it from her parents. She was scared and terrified about being pregnant," he told The Associated Press.

Gallagher said he had not yet seen paperwork on any privacy rights Corbett may have invoked.

Erett said Corbett's parents did not know she had delivered a baby until after her mother took her to the hospital for heavy bleeding.

Rules create dilemma
Dr. William Plested, president of the American Medical Association, said medical privacy rules create a dilemma.

"They have given some important protections, but they have brought up a lot of problems," he said. "We're going to continue to see issues like this. It's a combination of medical issues and ethical issues, and we have to decide whose issues are pre-eminent."

Corbett surrendered to police on Tuesday. Prosecutors said she will be charged as an adult with first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death.

Gallagher said he hopes prosecutors take into account Corbett's age, her lack of a criminal record and "the fear and confusion and mental issues that were going on."

"I can't imagine how frightening that was for a 17-year-old girl to go through in the shower," Gallagher said.

He said psychological tests were planned for Corbett but none had been done.

"I think it's a very tragic situation for everybody involved, for the child, for both families, the community and Cheyenne. She's young, fragile and scared," he said.

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