ICBioethics Blog 

Where is a Patient Safe?

Written by: Dr. Kathy Gennuso

The 59-page grand jury report detailed seven sexual assaults (2007 – 2013). Allegheny County grand jury concluded that officials at UPMC’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, the region’s largest mental health facility, failed to call police or denied investigators cooperation and/or access to evidence of assaults. Patient-to-patient assaults – young victims — one only 8 yrs.-old — in a playroom!

Instead of contacting police, WPIC conducted internal investigations, which reportedly “created and perpetuated a culture that embraced the idea that internal investigations into allegations of on-site criminal activity were preferable to, and could take the place of, any law enforcement investigations.”

I’m kind of confused . . . isn’t that against the law?!

Now I understand and support patient confidentiality . . . but is there some new law relieving Pennsylvania healthcare workers of mandatory child abuse reporting requirements (Childline?) . . . and practitioners’ responsibilities of reporting to police patient injuries resulting from a crime (including sex crimes!)?

Check out — Reference Card: Minors’ Access to Confidential Health Care in Pennsylvania, especially “Exceptions to Confidentiality” . . . an instructive document partly developed by Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (UPMC?!).

But legalities aside, what about the four basic principles of medical ethics? I would say they all were violated. I just want to ask those administrators/supervisors who made and upheld decisions to conduct only internal investigations and staff members who failed to uphold their own ethical/legal responsibilities to report (keeping that abuse door open for more innocent victims): What would you have done if one of those violated children placed in professional care for HELP had been one of your own beloved?

Mitch GennusoComment