Did You Know That You Were a Torturer if You Breached Patient Confidentiality? HIPAA & HITECH Act Blog by Jonathan P. Tomes

As if it were not bad enough facing HIPAA’s criminal penalties—a doctor was sentenced to four months in federal prison for accessing celebrity charts just out of curiosity (he didn’t do anything evil with the data, such as try to sell it to the National Enquirer; he just looked at it)—and the civil penalties that have been as high as $4.3 million, now, according to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, “violation of medical secrecy and confidentiality in health care settings” constitutes torture. John E. Mendez, the U.N. “Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” included the above definition in a report to the U.N. General Assembly. Mendez has asked the Obama Administration for an official invitation from the U.S. government to assess how much torture we permit in health care settings. And if health care providers face prosecution in the International Court of Justice, in addition to the criminal prosecutions and civil lawsuits in our federal courts authorized by the HITECH Act, are we going to be surprised when even more practitioners and their support staffs get out of the health care business? See Wesley J. Smith, “Defining Torture Down,” The Weekly Standard, April 1–April 8, 2013, at page 21.

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