Hospital accused of posting sensitive medical records on Facebook

A woman being treated for a sexually transmitted disease is suing a Cincinnati hospital after her medical records appear on the Facebook group "Team No Hoes."

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Once it's on Facebook... JeremyShaferOrigami/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It's tempting to believe that, with the arrival of constant and ubiquitous social networking, people really don't care what others know about them.

It's almost as if people are desperate for the world to know everything.

Yet there are still corners of the soul where privacy lives strong. Your health, for example.

It's true that some people love to post their pre-surgery, post-surgery, and even during-surgery pictures to Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes, though, there are conditions that are truly personal.

Shawntelle Turley might have some feelings about this. She was being treated for syphilis. You might imagine that she wouldn't want everyone -- or even anyone -- to know.

However, as the Cincinnati Enquirer reports, an image of her diagnosis, name, and medical records allegedly appeared on one of the last Facebook pages you'd like to be seen, even when healthy. It's called "Team No Hoes."

Turley is now suing the UC Medical Center, as well as Ryan Rawls, who works there, another unnamed employee and her ex-boyfriend, Raphael Bradley. Her accusation is that Bradley asked for the others to obtain the records and do the posting.

She further alleges that an email containing the same Facebook image was sent to the members of that Facebook group.

While not commenting publicly about the litigation, the hospital did send a memo to its staff.

It reads: "(W)e take the privacy and safety of our patients very seriously. While the allegations are isolated to the people named in the lawsuit and by no means reflect the conduct of UCMC associates, who are dedicated to serving thousands of patients annually and safeguarding their PHI (or personal health information), I would like to remind everyone that the unauthorized access or viewing of medical records, or the unauthorized sharing of PHI, is a serious violation of federal medical privacy laws and regulations and cause for immediate termination."

Clearly, the intentions are noble. But it doesn't take the next Edward Snowden to appreciate just how easy these alleged actions might have been.

The digital world makes it all too simple for embarrassment and shaming to occur. The more information there is online, the more risk there is.

The victim may be permanently affected.

No amount of legal action or financial compensation can entirely make up for the potential consequences. (Turley's lawyer is asking for a minimum of $25,000.)

Some idealists might muse that everything being out in the open makes for a better, healthier society.

But somewhere inside us is that part that we want to reserve for the few remaining people we trust -- or just ourselves.

The potential for that being denied in a moment makes for a permanently uneasy existence.

 

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