Proposed rules pose a threat to patients' privacySecretary...


October 02, 1997

Proposed rules pose a threat to patients' privacy

Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala recommends medical record legislation that would have a devasting effect on patients' right to privacy because of the proposed exceptions to the confidentiality privilege.

These exceptions mean records can be accessed without patient consent or knowledge for purposes which include: police law enforcement, oversight of the health care system, research, public health, and court proceedings in which the patient is a party. It is fair to say that any government agent could easily inspect citizens' medical records without patient consent or recourse.

When medical confidences become public, they may imperil the patient's job, credit, insurance, reputation or family relationships. People may avoid treatment, leading to unnecessary deaths and suicides.

Recently, the Supreme Court strongly supported confidentiality in psychotherapy, ruling the ''mere possibility of disclosure'' may undermine the treatment. Moreover, the court said, the privilege ''serves the public interest by facilitating the provision of appropriate treatment for individuals suffering the effects of a mental or emotional problem. The mental health of our citizenry . . . is a public good of transcendent importance.''

Secretary Shalala's proposal flies in the face of the court's wisdom and medical ethics.

Leon A. Levin, M.D.


The writer is president of the Baltimore-Washington Society for Psychoanalysis.

Trustees nearly ruined community colleges

Hurrah for The Sun! Your article on the Baltimore County Community Colleges hit the nail on the head.

The board of trustees, a group of self-promoting, self-aggrandizing, pompous education wannabes, has done its best to destroy the system that so many talented, devoted and intelligent people took many years to build. It is to be hoped that state and local governments will take this report seriously and take the necessary steps to return the system to its previous prestige and esteem.

Linda Durkos


Good husband, father, but not a governor

We now have it on the best authority that Gov. Parris N. Glendening is a good husband and father (see the recent Sun ''puff'' piece and the governor's own wife's letter to the editor). Apparently he shares a quality with tens of thousands of Maryland men, including me, a father of four. The fact that we are good fathers and husbands, however, does not qualify us to be governor.

In spite of Mr. Glendening's domestic virtues, his political, if not ethical, missteps during his term in office seem to indicate that his transformation from county politician to head of state has left him sorely lacking. His predecessor, William Donald Schaefer, had neither wife nor son, but he led our state as if it were his family, with integrity and vision.

I have a suggestion for our next governor. I propose that she appoint former Governor Glendening executive director of the office of children, youth, and families. It is an important position and one for which I believe Frances Anne and Raymond would acknowledge their husband and father is well qualified.

Luther Starnes


A word from a nun in defense of USF&G

In the wake of the recent controversy and negative publicity surrounding USF&G and Mercy Sister Mary Aquin, I feel another voice needs to be heard.

As the president/principal of St. Frances Academy, I have had a first-hand working relationship with USF&G. For the past four years St. Frances has benefited from a partnership with USF&G that has provided our students and faculty numerous opportunities for technical advancement and an understanding of the corporate workplace.

Besides providing our school with material improvements (vans, furniture, computers, kitchen equipment, etc.) and financial support for scholarships and programs (Living Classroom Partnership), the employees of USF&G have developed individual supportive relationships with our students and faculty. at St. Frances do not see USF&G as the ''corporate insurance giant'' portrayed by The Sun, but as a community of caring people who recently had volunteers wiring our entire school for computer networking.

It is a natural and easy choice to champion the individual vs. the ''corporate giant'' as Michael Olesker did in his column of Sept. 25. When the headlines die and a more controversial story comes along, who will be the winner and loser in this situation? USF&G, with the negative publicity it has received, cannot win this battle.

Will corporations that have been more than generous with religious institutions, as USF&G has been with us and with Sister Mary Aquin, become cynical and jaded when they have been ''bitten by the mouth that they have fed''? Perhaps we will all lose the war.

#Sister John F. Schilling


More money needed for skid row alcoholics

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