Friday, January 27, 2006

Two Employees Fired In President Hinckley Health Disclosure

KUTV, (video available at the linked website) Salt Lake City's CBS televison affiliate has reported that two Cottonwood Hospital employess have been fired for allegedly leaking President Gordon B. Hinckely's medical condition to the media:

Now IHC employees have been fired after the news of Hinckley's condition was leaked to the media.

"I'm really upset, I've worked for IHC for 4 years and for them to fire me on a technicality," says Aryn Nelson.

Nelson says four months ago she gave her login information to another worker after that employee's internet privileges were taken away. That employee allegedly signed in under Nelson's name and sent an email to the media Tuesday, saying LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley was in the hospital.

"They brought me in and I started crying when they said we're going to terminate you, we sincerely believe you didn't send the email,� says Nelson. �I had no idea until they pulled me into the office they just said he had a procedure. I didn't even know about it until I watched the news."

Nelson says the reason she was given for the termination was because she gave out her computer password.
This is an interesting story on many counts. First, it names only one employee, Aryn Nelson, allegedly involved in this leaking. Aryn is apparently only tangentially involved in that she gave her internet password to a co-employee, not named in the story. It was the non-named employee who allegedly sent the email to the media about President Hinckley's medical condition.

Leaking medical information about any patient to any third party is potentially a violation of the Health Insurance Portablility and Accountability Act, HIPPA--see here and here.

The Act establishes for the first time a set of national standards for the protection of certain health information. A major goal of the Privacy Rule is to assure that individuals' health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality health care and to protect the public's health and well being. The Rule strikes a balance that permits important uses of information, while protecting the privacy of people who seek care and healing.
If, as reported, the unnamed employee was fired for directly leaking President Hinckley's medical condtion to the media, this appears to be a serious violation of his HIPPA medical privacy rights. While, on the other hand, Aryn's transgression appears to be more of an internal employment issue of improperly disclosing her internet password and access.

The gospel implication is whether if President Hinckley hears of these alleged violations, would he, or should he as God's ordained Prophet on earth forgive these transgressions against him? If so, should these employees be reinstated to their jobs? I would imagine someone is likely to make President Hinckley aware of these transgressions. Given that Christ Himself asked the Father to forgive those Roman soldiers who carried out the Crucifixion orders of the government, is it likely President Hinckley would do the same, and ask that these employees be given back their jobs?

12 Comments:

Anonymous Last Lemming said...

Of course President Hinckley should forgive them, and I suspect he will. But that is entirely irrelevant to whether they should get their jobs back. They work for Cottonwood Hospital, not the Church. The hospital has a responsibility to protect and reassure its other current and prospective patients. The actual leaker should not work in a sensitive position for a long time.

Friday, January 27, 2006 7:51:00 AM  
Blogger Bryce said...

Don't give out confidential medical information.

Don't share network passwords.

I'm pretty sure these are both standard policies at every hospital in the US, and that violation of either is a fireable offense. There's a reason there's a potentially harsh penalty for such seemingly harmless actions. Really bad things can happen. So when the policies are violated in a very public way, there's not much choice but to act.

Take-home lesson: don't give out your password. Ever.

Friday, January 27, 2006 1:36:00 PM  
Blogger Keryn said...

I have to agree with last lemming. To put it generically, when a "victim" forgives the "criminal" for a crime, that doesn't mean that the "criminal" doesn't have to suffer the consequences of the action.

Ms. Nelson didn't commit any crime, but she did violate company procedure. And while firing someone who has worked there four years for this offense seems a bit hasty to me, we have to remember we don't have the entire story--the hospital hasn't commented (and isn't likely to).

Friday, January 27, 2006 3:46:00 PM  
Blogger john f. said...

Take home lesson: some will seize on this as some kind of oppression meted out by the Church in its bid to keep everything quiet and portray a shiny image. (After all, the Church controls everything in Utah, including the legislature, the decision of a private movie-theater owner, and the employment decisions of Cottonwood Hospital, right?)

Friday, January 27, 2006 3:57:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

last lemming: Good points. But, another thought I had is would the reaction have been the same from Cottonwood Hosptial had the patient been Jane Hinckely, or Sarah Hinckley, or some unknown Hinckley? Would the media's reaction have been different? Does, it matter? It sounded like Aryn Nelson's role was pretty minor compared with her co-worker, if her version is accurate. I think your most critical point is that the employees worked for the the hospital not the Church. I agree with you that unauthorized medical disclosure is a serious matter.

bryce: I think I get your point. Don't share passwords, ever, or give out medical information! Good reminder. But, are you concerned at all by the possible selective enforcement of the harsh penalty for giving out the password, even though it was a dumb thing to do?

keryn: I'm not sure anyone committed a crime here; however, there arguably was a violation of President Hinckley' medical privacy rights. Everyone has made good points on why there are harsh penalites in place for such lapses. On the other hand, if as Aryn Nelson claims if there is selective enforcement of the password infraction, was it enforced on this occasion because the patient happended to be the leader of the most powerful organization in Utah?

john f: I'm sure there are people who think exactly as you describe. Thank you for this reminder.

Friday, January 27, 2006 4:26:00 PM  
Blogger john f. said...

Guy, I know there are such people.

Friday, January 27, 2006 5:37:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

john f. You are right. There are such people

Friday, January 27, 2006 6:09:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

john f. You forgot one item of Church control: The beehive design proposed for the flip side of the Utah quarter.

Friday, January 27, 2006 7:46:00 PM  
Blogger Jettboy said...

The media has always been pretty hypocritical with such things. A person who gave such information out to the benefit of a legal investigation would be castigated. The woman who gave such information out to the benefit of the press is defended.

Saturday, January 28, 2006 6:33:00 PM  
Blogger Garo said...

Well Unfortunatly, even if President Hinckley forgives them and tells the entire world that the leak of his medical condition was ok with him, chances are that Cottonwood Hospital will have no part of it. Misuse of ones password in some institutions is akin to witchcraft in Salen in the 1600"s. Not only that...sharing your password with anyone, let alone someone who had theirs revoked because of misuse, is just plain dumb. I hope these two employees can find employment in the near future, but I'd bet the farm it won't be at Cottonwood...and I don't even gamble.
Garo

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

garo: Well as long as they don't burn these employees at the stake, I guess we're headed in the right direction.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 11:02:00 AM  
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Sunday, September 10, 2006 2:02:00 PM  

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