HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Suspensions over Sneaking Peek at Clooney's Medical Records

Oops!  Those darn medical privacy laws - how are people supposed to get good gossip.  Huffington Post reports on recent suspensions at the hospital that treated actor George Clooney after his recent motorcycle accident.  These suspensions result from from allegedly peeking at Mr. Clooney's medical records.  Huffington Post states,

WCBS-TV in New York reported Tuesday night that as many as 40 staffers, including doctors, were suspended without pay, accused of accessing Clooney's medical records and possibly providing information to the media, a violation of federal law.  The Jersey Journal of Jersey City reported that 27 employees, but no doctors, had been disciplined, and only for looking at the records without authorization.

The investigation was not prompted by a complaint from Clooney, who said he only learned of it on Tuesday.  "This is the first I've heard of it," Clooney said in a statement. "And while I very much believe in a patient's right to privacy, I would hope that this could be settled without suspending medical workers."

A spokeswoman for the union representing some of the workers said they had been suspended without pay for four weeks.  "We believe this is a harsh penalty and an overreaction," said Jeanne Oterson, a spokeswoman for the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union, adding that a grievance could be filed pending further investigation.

Eurice Rojas, the hospital's vice president of external affairs, told The Jersey Journal that hospital officials do not believe any employees leaked Clooney's medical information, but some staffers did improperly access his records.  Federal law mandates that only direct caregivers _ including doctors, nurses, technicians and support staff involved in a patient's care _ see such information.

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