Hoping to curb the illicit use of prescription
medication, New York State passed a statute requiring that copies
of prescriptions for certain drugs be filed with the state. Although
this information would held in a secure manner, many doctors and patients
challenged the law on the multiple grounds, including that the statute
violated the patients’ ‘zone of privacy’ and that it encroached upon
the doctor-patient relationship.
Summary of Notifiable Diseases
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)
is published weekly by the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention. Each issue contains feature articles
on a particular public health problem in addition to charts logging
the cumulative incidence of selected notifiable diseases. This link
will take you to recent editions of these tables.
Guidelines for National HIV Case Surveillance
Diseases such as HIV/AIDS still carry stigma, and disclosure of infection
status may have significant social, medical, and financial consequences.
Yet public health surveillance often requires that new cases of HIV
be reported to a public health authority for surveillance purposes.
In this document, the CDC presents its guidelines for balancing the
interests of patient and public health practitioner.
Regulations: Use of Information for
Public Health Purposes.
In 1996, Congress passed the Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The Act governs a wide
array of issues pertaining to insurance, health care administration,
and medical data. Pursuant to the Act, the Department of Health and
Human Services (DHHS) promulgated regulations setting forth standards
for protecting the privacy of identifiable health information. This
section of the regulations sets forth a ‘public health carve-out’
and explains the circumstances under which protected information may
be disclosed without patient consent. For more information about HIPAA,
try a FindLaw
search or visit DHHS’ HIPAA Web site.
Model State Public Health Privacy Act
Responding to the need for state laws to govern
the collection, use, and security of protected personal health information
for public health purposes, public health law scholars at the Center
for Law and the Public’s Health drafted a model act to guide state
lawmakers create informed legislation.
v. Regents of the University of California
Tatiana Tarasoff was murdered in 1969. Two
months before the murder, Tarasoff’s parents claim their daughter’s
murder had expressed his homicidal intention to psychologist at a
University of California at Berkeley hospital. No one warned Tarasoff
of the potential threat to her life. Her parents sued, arguing that
the University and its doctor had breached their duty to warn Tarasoff.
The respondent denied that such a duty existed. Does a doctor have
a duty to warn third parties, even if doing so would require the disclosure
of otherwise privileged information?
Apology for the Tuskegee Study
Tuskegee Study Web Site
In 1932, the United States Public Health
Service commenced the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis
in the Negro Male” in rural Alabama. Over the next 40 years,
researchers misled, mistreated, and denied medical treatment to
the several hundred subjects. In 1997, President Clinton formally
apologized for the Tuskegee study and for the researchers who “diminished
the stature of man by abandoning the most basic ethical precepts.”