Sunday, November 25, 2007

SOUND OFF: OCEAN'S MEDICAL RECORDS

While he was being treated for injuries sustained in a motorcycle mishap, actor George Clooney's medical chart was looked at by as many as 40 hospital workers, most of them unauthorized to do so and therefore in violation of federal law. After more than two dozen of them were suspended, Clooney issued a statement supporting a patient's right to privacy but adding that he wished the matter hadn't resulted in workers' suspensions.

My readers had little sympathy for the hospital workers' plight. A rule is a rule, they felt, and a law a law.

"Policies should not be subject to the wishes of a celebrity patient," writes Ileana Liel of Riverside, Calif., "no matter how well intended."

"Once again we demonstrate the spineless wish for someone to be held accountable other than ourselves," writes Elizabeth Himelson of San Clemente, Calif.

"It is all about self-responsibility," agrees Barbara Riddle of Mission Viejo, Calif., "of which there is a definite lack nowadays."

"They were caught and are now dealing with the consequences, just as anyone else who violates laws," writes Marion Bruening of Riverton, Utah.

"How would the health workers feel if someone else who had no responsibility for a person's care looked at their private health information?" asks Paula d'Hulst of Orange County. "Shame on them."

Check out other opinions at SOUND OFF: PEEKING AT GEORGE, or post your own by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@nytimes.com or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2007 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)

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