My people were originally farmers who lived twenty miles from Valley Forge and died in the Revolutionary War. The family had three laws: Walk right with God, plant every spring, and mind your own business. They intended that the government they were permitting to be created would do likewise, with the exception of the planting.
I have learned this day a new way in which the State does not mind its own business.
Last year I filed a complaint against Dr. Jane Kou with the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) of the Department of Health of New York State. OPMC Investigator Jane Durr sent me authorizations to release medical information for two hospitals, which I signed. Last week I received from OPMC Director Pauline Frazier a letter stating that my records from two other hospitals had also been reviewed.
After speaking both with a private attorney and Austin, Director of Medical Records at Upstate Medical University, I have learned that, in fact, the State does not need a citizen’s permission in order to look at private medical records. Clerks of any ilk are now privy to your personal affairs, as long as they work for the State.
One of the troubling things about this matter is that Ms. Durr did send me two authorizations for my signature. She and her office are perpetuating the illusion that the State is under citizen control when, in fact, it would have been most truthful if Ms. Durr had said, “Oh, never mind. We can get anything we want anytime we want.”
Dr. Kou, the physician being challenged, has never been on the staff of Upstate, however, I have been a patient there. Therefore, the State is not investigating the doctor: it is investigating me. As has been the history of rape cases, it is the victim who is being scrutinized.
Ms. Austin has informed me that the State has statutory authority to investigate private citizen’s confidential records. She has contacted their Privacy Officer and alerted their legal counsel, however I have no apparent recourse for the damage done to me.
The chilling fact is that if your medical confidentiality has been violated, the place you go to file a complaint is the Office of Professional Medical Conduct. The guardian of citizen’s privacy is the violator of citizen’s privacy.
Ms. Austin also stated that Medicare and Medicaid could likewise take your private records without your authorization. The release you sign in your doctor’s office is apparently pure bunk—not a reality, but an illusion that you have control over what is known about you.
Citizens live in the naive faith that their affairs are private. The State has not informed them that it can access confidential information at will. Anyone who wishes to change this state of affairs should contact their legislator to express an opinion or advocate for legislation that will more closely refine and define what information the State can know.
Had there been foresight that enabled my ancestors, John and Thomas Hope, to see what government has become, they would have stayed home on the farm and let the British prevail. It was not worth dying for.