Opinion 91-29
(December 1991)

You have asked this Committee for an opinion regarding whether you are obligated by law or under the Rules of Professional Conduct to notify the authorities or parents of other infants who may have received morphine injections instead of a Heparin flush.

A review of the Rules of Professional Conduct, as adopted by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on April 1, 1988, does not reveal any obligation on your part to inform either the authorities or the parents of other infants concerning this matter. More specifically, Rule 1.6 ("Confidentiality of Information") of the Rules of Professional Conduct provides:

(a) A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client consents after consultation, except for disclosures that are impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, and except as stated in paragraphs (b) and (c).

(c) A lawyer may reveal such information to the extent that the lawyer reasonably believes necessary:

(1) To prevent the client from committing criminal act that the lawyer believes is likely to result in death or substantial bodily harm or substantial injury to the financial interest or property of another;

(2) To prevent or to rectify the consequences of a client's criminal or fraudulent act in the commission of which the lawyer's services are doing or had been used....

In view of the fact that your client is not the potential wrongdoer, and that your services as a lawyer were and are not part of any alleged wrongdoing, there is no ethical obligation on your part to reveal the facts of this matter to other parents or the authorities. See also Rule 3.3(a)(2).

The question of whether you have a legal duty under the circumstances of this case to notify the authorities or other parents is outside the scope of this Committee's jurisdiction. As a result, the Committee is unable to render an opinion on this issue.

The Philadelphia Bar Association's Professional Guidance Committee provides, upon request, advice for lawyers facing or anticipating facing ethical dilemmas. Advice is based on the consideration of the facts of the particular inquirer's situation and the Rules of Professional Conduct as promulgated by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. The Committee's opinions are advisory only and are based upon the facts set forth. The opinions are not binding upon the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania or any other Court. They carry only such weight as an appropriate reviewing authority may choose to give it.