Prescriptions for secrecy

Current bills in the Legislature would theoretically help consumers by forcing medical people to reveal mistakes. But the reports would be kept secret.

HB 1971 would establish quality-of-care monitoring of nursing homes. But a companion bill would exempt those records from the state's Sunshine Law. The reasoning? To protect patients who may give adverse personal information. But as Barbra Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation says, that could be achieved by blanking out the informant's name.

Other bills would require physicians to report incidents of spinal damage, incorrect amputations and patient deaths to the Department of Health. Again, all information is exempt from public records.

The reason is to protect the identity of the patient and encourage the reporting of information. But really the exemption only protects the doctor. Already a patient complaint against a physician does not become public record unless peer review finds it has merit. "This is adding to that layer of secrecy," Petersen says. Call her at (800) 337-3518 for more information.

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