Re: First responder protection law clashes with privacy rights (News, July 27)
As a privacy professional whose spouse is a cop, I understand both sides of this debate all too well.
My spouse has been involved in a variety of altercations, had to subdue and place vomiting and incontinent drunks into vehicles and into jail, and encountered numerous situations in which there was ‘splash back’ of the suspect’s bodily fluids. Getting access to the suspect’s medical file would have been irrelevant and unnecessary.
A law such as this can only be valid if it clearly articulates and limits the circumstances in which such a privacy invasion may be conducted, and limits to whom the information may be further divulged.
If it merely offers a general statement that the offender’s medical record ‘may’ be divulged and that it ‘may’ then be shared with ‘others’ then it invites unwarranted fishing expeditions into any individual’s medical record ‘just in case’ something might be found.
I would suggest that if there is a valid reason to review a suspect’s medical file, the first responder ought not be the person to conduct the review. Perhaps a neutral third party — such as a court-appointed and entirely unbiased medical professional — ought to be the person to review the suspect’s medical record to search only for specified information.
A further problem is that this sort of law sets a very low standard and an inviting precedent. Teachers are often bitten by their young students.
Should teachers be able to see a student’s entire medical file? Ambulance attendants, hospital porters and housekeeping staff are often left to clean up the bodily fluids of patients, and handle linens and other items soiled with bodily fluids.
Should they all be allowed to review the entire medical record of everyone whose fluids they might have mopped up?