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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
UNITED STATES: Hepatitis C Victims' Privacy Protected in Criminal Case

Aaron Sanborn

December 19, 2012

Seacoastonline (12.14.12)

The medical technician in Exeter, New Hampshire, who allegedly tampered with patient medication and infected patients with hepatitis C, is charged with seven counts of tampering with a consumer product and seven counts of illegally obtaining drugs. Since the investigation began in May, 32 individuals have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C as the accused. The state will require records related to medical procedures and health care records of the victims to build its case. These records, by law, must be provided to the accused and his legal team. To protect the privacy of patients during the discovery process, Federal prosecutors handling the criminal case have been granted a protective order. Assistant U.S. Attorney John Farley filed a motion requesting the order because of the sensitive nature of the records being provided. The judge granted the motion on the same day it was requested. Under the protective order, defense counsel must maintain confidentiality and not disclose the material to anyone outside the case; if they need to disclose to assist in the case, all personal identifiers must be redacted. Also, both parties must proceed with caution when using personal information in court. The judge ruled that prior to any presentation of evidence in open court regarding health care information, the parties shall consult with each other and obtain prior approval of the court to limit the unnecessary or inappropriate public exposure of private health care information. The trial is scheduled to begin the week of February 5, 2013. So far, there have been six patients in Kansas and one in Maryland identified as infected with the same strains of hepatitis C as the defendant.