When evaluating a claim against a mental health provider, it is vital to consider the implications of all provisions of the Mental Health Procedures Act, 50 P.S. § 7107 et seq.   One such provision, 50 P.S. § 7111, serves to create a confidentiality privilege that is far broader in scope than the traditional doctor-patient privilege.  The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has held that this privilege extends to all documents relating to regarding one’s treatment, not just medical records.  Zane v. Friends Hospital, 836 A.2d 25, 32 (Pa. 2003). 

Due to its broad nature, mental health providers may attempt to invoke this privilege in an effort to withhold documents that would otherwise appear to be well within the scope of discovery.  We recently dealt with such an issue in a professional negligence action against a mental health provider arising out of an assault and battery committed by a patient while in the care of the provider.  In this case, the provider objected to our simple request for an incident report relating to the assault on the grounds that it was subject to the broad confidentiality privilege discussed above.  Eventually, we were able to obtain a copy of the report after convincing the provider that the privilege did not apply because the incident report was entirely unrelated to the treatment of the patient.  However, we were met with far more resistance on this issue than we could have imagined.