Treat records theft as the crime that it is -- not as cause for lawsuit

LETTER — Posted April 3, 2006

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Regarding "Oregon computer theft spurs patient privacy lawsuit" (Article, March 6): The Oregon lawsuit by patients whose medical information was contained in a laptop that was stolen from a hospital employee is absurd. The laptop was stolen from a locked car.

Should Providence Health System have hired guards to watch every employee's car? If armed thieves walked into a hospital health information department and stole patient charts, should the patients sue for violating HIPAA? If my bank is robbed, should I sue the bank for improperly guarding my money from thieves? If my child tells me that a classmate copied an answer from her during a test, should I sue the other parent for theft of intellectual property?

At some point, the line has to be drawn when a crime is involved, or once again the only winners will be the lawyers.

Ronald L Hirsch, MD, Elgin, Ill.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2006/04/03/edlt0403.htm.

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