Dear Abby: Hospital worker broke law by reading husband's medical records

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DEAR ABBY: "Concerned in Massachusetts" (Feb. 20) used her status as a hospital employee to access her husband's medical records and found a history of STDs. I'm a registered nurse with 40 years' experience. Every health care organization I know of teaches all their employees about HIPAA violations and that accessing private patient medical information is a criminal offense. It is essential that patients know they can trust us to protect their privacy. We have specific policies against using one's employee status to access a relative's medical information.

photo Jeanne Phillips

"Concerned" is lucky she still has a job. At my institution, she would be terminated for violating organizational policy and federal law. Her husband may not be a saint, but neither is she. Her actions were unacceptable and reflect a clear lack of integrity and honesty. - SAFEGUARDING THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY

DEAR SAFEGUARDING: Thank you for your informed response. You are not the only reader appalled at what "Concerned" had done. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: "Concerned" indicated that her husband had been treated twice for STDs "some years back." What does that mean? Were they married then? If not, is he labeled high risk due to his previous behavior? Perhaps there is something deeper in the relationship that needs addressing - such as why there are weeks between sexual contact with her husband.

It's ironic that she's bent out of shape over infidelity concerns, but thinks it acceptable to betray the privacy and ethics rules governing medical professionals. - VINCENT IN WEST VIRGINIA

DEAR ABBY: "Young at Heart in Texas" (Feb. 9) could have written my story. I am also a 70-year-old man who is sexually dysfunctional. I, too, was lonely, having outlived two of my brides. However, I did find someone who appreciates holding hands and whispering sweet words without more physical contact.

Abby, you said: "Not only do I think you can (find companionship), I suspect you may need police protection to control the crowd of applicants. Years ago, my aunt, the late Ann Landers, polled her female readers asking if they would prefer 'holding and cuddling' to actually doing 'the deed.' The majority of them answered in the affirmative."

My first wife died of a heart attack after 30 years of marriage. My second wife died after eight years of marriage, of kidney cancer. At 71, I married my third wife, a wonderful woman just as you both describe. She was my next-door neighbor. We have been married three years and nine months. We also enjoy cuddling, even without doing "the deed."

So I say to "Young at Heart in Texas": Yes, you can find a woman such as you and Abby describe. And when you do, I suggest you rub her back often. Women love it. - YOUNG AT HEART IN COLORADO

DEAR YOUNG AT HEART: I'm glad your story had a happy ending, and I'm crossing my fingers that "Young at Heart's" will, too. Thanks for writing to encourage him.