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Professor Robert Field Discusses Kidney Transplant Controversy on WHYY

January 19, 2012

Professor Robert Field said federal laws have put the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in “a bind,” amid allegations one of its doctors refused to perform a kidney transplant for a disabled 3-year-old during an interview on WHYY radio on Jan. 18.

CHOP is facing a blizzard of adverse publicity, with the parents of a South Jersey girl telling national media outlets that a doctor at the hospital cited her rare genetic disorder in declining to perform a kidney transplant.

In a statement, the hospital said it does not disqualify transplant candidates on the basis or physical or mental disabilities.

Federal laws designed to protect privacy prohibit hospitals and health-care providers from commenting publicly on specific patients, Field said.

Although the privacy laws could potentially conceal questionable decisions by a care provider, Field said CHOP cannot discuss this case publicly, unless the family gives written permission for the hospital to do so.

Field said that despite the controversy, those laws remain enormously beneficial, since health-care providers collect and store vast volumes of patient information.

“Medical privacy is crucially important,” Field said. “Personal data is out there in bits and bytes. I don’t think we’re going to go back on that.”