Saturday, April 28, 2007

Clerk fined for inappropriate access to personal health information

Earlier this month, a medical clerk was fined $10,000 for unlawfully accessing the personal health information of her lover's wife. To my knowledge, this is the first charge and conviction of its kind in Canada. The charges were laid under Alberta's Health Information Act. Most other provinces would have no penalty for such conduct.

Medical office clerk fined $10,000 for accessing records of lover's wife

CALGARY (CP) - A medical office clerk has been fined $10,000 for illegally obtaining health records of her lover's wife.

Stephanie MacDonald, who was charged under the Alberta Health Information Act, gained access to test results, biopsy findings and X-rays belonging to Marlene Stallard 17 times between August 2005 and May 2006.

Stallard, who is fighting ovarian cancer, told court in her victim impact statement the records were used in an attempt to convince her husband she was gravely ill.

It was part of MacDonald's strategy to make her adulterous relationship with James Stallard more permanent, she alleged.

''A violation of your privacy to that degree, when you're going through cancer, is a pretty terrible thing,'' Marlene Stallard said Friday, after the sentencing.

MacDonald, who could access information through her capacity as a clerk at the Dr. McPhalen Professional Corporation, maintained she was working under her lover's direction when she accessed the records. MacDonald and James Stallard are no longer lovers.

But James Stallard testified he only asked MacDonald to get information about his wife's condition twice, and denied he'd asked for information the other 15 times.

MacDonald also said she wasn't aware what she was doing was illegal, noting she'd never been briefed on such practices and her office didn't have a privacy policy.

Provincial court Judge Manfred Delong said he didn't believe a 12-year medical clerk didn't know what she was doing was wrong.

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