The Oct. 31 editorial "Privacy Cliffhanger" seems to approve of President Clinton's proposed medical privacy regulations. But under the proposed standards, patient consent forms will be eliminated, and the medical records will flow between doctors and health plans without the need for the patient's permission.

Today, someone who has a bad experience with a physician can go to a new doctor and have a clean slate. Under the proposed regulation, each patient could be at the mercy of a doctor's perception: Does the doctor like you? Does the doctor view you as a "compliant" patient?

The proposed regulations require the patient to negotiate with the doctor not to share the medical record with other health care providers or the health insurer, and, if the doctor agrees, then doctor and patient must sign an agreement. Why would a doctor be motivated to agree? Why take on a complicated patient or deviate from President Clinton's new norm of easy access to medical records?

The proposed regulations also will allow governmental databases, health researchers, law enforcement, public health officials and many others access without patient consent. The government, not the patient, will be deciding who can look at the patient's medical records.

When a patient shares intimate medical information, he or she does so for the limited purpose of being healed, not revealed.


Hammonton, N.J.