Patient records must be confidentialAs both a health-care...

LETTERS

February 04, 1996

Patient records must be confidential

As both a health-care professional and consumer, I must take issue with the Jan. 29 letter ("Why all sides need medical care data") from Ernest B. Crofoot and Don Hillier of the Maryland Alliance for Labor-Management Cooperation. The entire health community -- not just the psychiatrists -- is concerned with safeguarding patient confidentiality.

If the psychiatrists seem a bit paranoid, it is for good reason: Confidentiality plays a uniquely important role in the establishment of safe and productive interactions with their patients. In fact, the unauthorized disclosure of information gathered in a central data base would violate the sanctity of any care provider-patient relationship.

While the potential benefit of cost and outcome analysis derived from a state data pool is considerable, it is necessary to address potential risks as well.

What about the young woman with a strong family breast cancer history who seeks genetic testing? Or the woman who chooses to have an abortion? Or the person who tests positive for HIV? Should these people worry that future decisions regarding their employment and health care might be influenced by disclosure of their records from a state medical data base?

The Jan. 29 letter writers assure us that the data base would preserve ''total confidentiality,'' but similar legislation has been halted in other states because no one is able to agree on what constitutes appropriate safeguards. Establishing a means to both store data efficiently and ensure that stored records are not traceable to a particular individual poses a formidable challenge.

"Good providers'' have little to gain from ''confidentiality on their fees and practice patterns.'' Good patients stand to lose much more from inadequate protection of their medical records.

Barbara M. Raksin, R.N.

Baltimore

Boosting prisons for economic growth

Cutting spending on prison education and laying off the employees who teach inmates educational and vocational skills makes perfect sense to me.

In Washington, for example, inmates who have gone through the college program (trend-setting Maryland has already eliminated its program) have a recidivism rate of 10 percent, while non-educated inmates have a 60-plus percent rate of returning.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the less educated and trained the inmates are, the better the chance they come back and remain fodder for America's largest growth industry -- prisons.

If you're a judge, lawyer, prosecutor, bailiff, police or correctional officer, you should be tickled pink with the education cuts, because that's job security.

Job security for those and their children and grandchildren. It just so happens that it's not job security for teachers.

An extra benefit of closing prison schools and vocational shops is that the empty classrooms can be used for housing more prisoners. A win-win situation, I'd say.

Or is it?

. Gary Johnson

Hagerstown

A world of crooks and honest people

On Dec. 29, I was involved in a car accident. My car was totaled, I was sent to Shock Trauma, but thank God, I was only bruised.

While semi-conscious in the car, my wallet was stolen by an unknown man who said he was there to help me. Recently I received a bill from Macy's for a $500 charge card purchase. The unknown person returned my wallet by mail without my credit card and birth certificate. What has become of this world?

There was a time when we all cared about one another and robbery was inconceivable. Now in the age of "get yours while you can" innocent people are victimized and taken advantaged of.

I pray that whoever robbed me never finds himself in my situation. I pray that he comes to realize that we are in this world together and that being upright, righteous and morally sound are the only ways to achieve in this world.

Henrietta Caldwell

Baltimore

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Yes, there are honest people out there -- we just don't hear as much about them.

I dropped a wallet outside my car recently and a young man and a small son spotted it. They tried to catch me as I drove away. When they were not successful, they waited until I got home and telephoned me.

I was so relieved, I don't know if I thanked him properly. He drove to my address to return it.

Thanks again.

Mary Carl

Parkville

Baltimore has reasons to be proud

My recent visit to your great city was a good experience. Baltimore is an exciting city and demonstrates a world of innovative accomplishments and enjoyable activities. I wish my city of Utica, N.Y., had one-tenth as much.

Merchants, business people, police officers and some of the others I came in contact with were very friendly and helpful when needed. The cleanliness of a city the size of Baltimore was a

pleasant surprise. Your Inner Harbor shows the world what innovation and careful planning can do for the profitable industry of tourism.

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