Indictment: Transgender care 'whistleblower' never filed complaint against Texas hospital

A Texas doctor who is accused of leaking patients' medical records to a conservative activist never filed an ethics or misconduct complaint against Texas Children's Hospital despite receiving extensive training to report suspected malfeasance, according to an indictment obtained by the American-Statesman.

Houston surgeon Eithan Haim — a 34-year-old doctor who identified himself as the whistleblower behind Christopher Rufo’s May 2023 article slamming the Houston-based children's hospital for allegedly continuing to provide gender-affirming care to minors after it said in 2022 it would cease such care in response to state orders to investigate gender-affirming care as "child abuse" — is described in the indictment as contacting the media “to promote his own personal agenda” rather than flagging concerns through the hospital’s reporting mechanism.

Haim has been charged with four counts of wrongful disclosure of individually identifiable health information, court filings show.

Texas Children's Hospital, one of the largest pediatric hospitals in the U.S., opened a new campus in North Austin this year.
Texas Children's Hospital, one of the largest pediatric hospitals in the U.S., opened a new campus in North Austin this year.

As part of Haim’s residency program at Baylor College of Medicine, he completed five rotations with Texas Children’s Hospital between 2019 and 2021. During this period, Haim was authorized to access private information about pediatric patients under his care. According to the indictment, this information included the names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and medical histories of patients in addition to the names of their attending physicians.

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In February 2022, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released an opinion urging the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to treat the provision of gender-affirming care to minors as child abuse under the Texas Family Code. One month later, Texas Children's Hospital publicly stated that it would suspend all such care.

Texas lawmakers in May 2023 approved Senate Bill 14 — a law prohibiting doctors from providing certain gender-affirming medical treatments, including puberty blockers, hormone therapy and certain surgeries, to minors experiencing gender dysphoria, a condition in which a person’s gender identity doesn’t match their sex at birth. The law went into effect Sept. 1.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas said in a news release last week that Haim asked to reactivate his access to Texas Children’s Hospital's electronic system in April 2023, after his rotation at the hospital had ended. Upon receiving this access, Haim allegedly used the system to retrieve private information about patients never under his charge — including their names and attending physicians. There is no record of Haim attempting to anonymously report the information contained in these files to Baylor or to Child Protective Services.

According to the indictment, Haim, throughout the course of his residency, received extensive training on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which safeguards medical records and provides data privacy. The doctor received additional training about how to anonymously report any known or suspected instances of misconduct, ethics violations or child abuse, and he was instructed to either use the university's electronic reporting system or file a complaint with Child Protective Services, according to the indictment.

Although the indictment makes no explicit mention of Rufo, it does reference Haim’s telephone conversations with a “media contact” between May 14 and 16, 2023, roughly the period in which Rufo published the documents alleging Texas Children's Hospital's continued provision of gender-affirming care.

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“I have obtained exclusive whistleblower documents showing that, despite its public statements, the Houston-based children’s hospital — the largest in the United States — has secretly continued to perform transgender medical interventions,” Rufo wrote in his May 16, 2023, article for New York-based City Journal.

Haim’s indictment describes financial losses and delays in medical care as well as threats to patients and physicians resulting from Rufo’s 2023 article. The document also accuses Haim of “grossly (mischaracterizing) TCH’s medical procedures in order to damage the reputation of TCH and its physicians.”

Haim's case has been subject to considerable political controversy after his indictment became public June 17. Since being indicted, Haim has sat down with prominent conservative pundits such as Jordan Peterson and Chaya Raichik (who goes by the handle Libs of TikTok on social media).

Many online have accused the U.S. Justice Department of pursuing charges against Haim not because of his various alleged HIPAA violations, but because of his decision to speak out about the hospital allegedly providing gender-affirming care.

"I saw how the gears of corruption were being deployed to destroy everything I worked for," Haim wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter, promoting a crowd-sourcing fund for his legal defense.

The fund has raised nearly $850,000 of its $1 million goal.

Jury selection for Haim’s trial is set to begin Aug. 16, according to a court order filed Friday. If convicted, Haim could face up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

Statesman reporter Bayliss Wagner contributed reporting to this article.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Texas transgender care 'whistleblower' never filed complaint