7 Reasons to Protect Candidate Privacy

September 7, 2016

 
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Some people think presidential and other candidates should open their medical records. Here are seven reasons to think twice before agreeing:
 
First, the patient-doctor encounter must take place in confidence. Patients, regardless of who they are, need to feel safe revealing whatever they must reveal and having looked at whatever they need looked at to receive accurate and timely treatment.
 
Second, medical records can be inaccurate. Errors and flawed assessments may be included. Our office receives calls from people who look in their medical records and are shocked by what they find. They want the doctor’s statements or diagnoses deleted. The electronic medical record can add new errors and can make all of them more difficult to correct.
 
Third, medical records can’t tell you if a person will be a great president. Would Abraham Lincoln have become president if his bouts of depression had been discovered, analyzed and heralded in national news?
 
Fourth, medical records do not indicate the true health of the candidate. For example, we have no idea about conditions yet to be discovered or not properly diagnosed. Candidates could die shortly after election or months later from a condition not yet on the radar. In addition, there is no such thing as a single medical record. Records are scattered in hospitals, filing cabinets, EHRs, clinic basements and private warehouses.
 
Fifth, politicos may keep their medical life “off the books.” Are all the treatments, diagnoses, and counseling of our presidential candidates in an official medical record? Secrecy is common. Whatever records we’d get won’t likely tell the real or whole story.
 
Sixth, no one should fear their medical records. If released, our records could divulge secrets only told to a doctor; secrets not even the patient’s family knows; secrets that the candidate has moved beyond and should not be resurrected just because they’re running for office.
 
Seventh, political futures should not be tied to DNA. As genetic sequences of a patient’s DNA are increasingly entered into medical records, assessments – right or wrong – may be made about the candidate’s future, propensity for illness, length of life, and likelihood of criminality.
 
Peering into a candidate’s medical records won’t assure accuracy, longevity, truth, or health, but it will mean the doctor’s office can never be assumed safe for patients. Privacy is critical to medical excellence, ethical integrity, personal security, patient dignity, physician autonomy and timely care. Candidates deserve the medical privacy we want them to protect for the rest of us.
 
Twila Brase, RN, PHN
President and Co-founder