Who Wants A Look?

As many as 40 employees at Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen where actor George Clooney and a companion was taken after his motorcycle accident a few weeks back are being investigated for looking at his medical records, with over two dozen suspended without pay so far. It is probably a safe guess that at least one leaked Clooney's records to the press, since the media reported in detail on his injuries within "minutes" of his admittance.

The employees got to Clooney's medical records by accessing the hospital's computers. Let's hear it for computerized medical records - makes spying so easy.

As I noted a few weeks back, a celebrity's (reported to be ex-English football coach Sir Bobby Robson) medical records were looked at in a UK hospital.

A Palisade's hospital workers union spokesperson said, "It was inappropriate but they [the employees who sneaked a peak] are paying a steep price. But I don't even think George Clooney would want people to pay. Again, the apology to him for his privacy rights [is necessary], but I think in fact the hospital is overreacting."

"There are hospital obligations to have security systems so that a breach can't occur -- obviously that failed," she added. The spokesperson also tried to argue that since the employees (for the most part) only looked at Clooney's medical record and didn't disclose it (what, other than to friends and relatives?), it was a "no harm, no foul situation."

I hate to differ - I think they all need to be terminated. Or how about this as a compromise: a full public disclosure of the medical records (or better tax records - what's the difference?) of all those who sneaked a peak, and for fairness, let's include the union spokesperson since she thinks snooping does not rate a suspension, let alone a firing. That's a fair trade, right?

Furthermore to say that it's the hospital's fault for not having technology to keep prying eyes out is more than a bit self serving. In the UK incident, for example, those authorized to look at Robson's medical records simply gave access to those who did not. Technology doesn't prevent bad behavior or a lack of personal responsibility.

With attitudes expressed by this spokesperson, I would say that ensuring the privacy of electronic health records still have a long way to go.


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Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City