Massachusetts Committee Hears Testimony on Infectious Disease Disclosure Bill
The Massachusetts Legislature's Judiciary Committee Tuesday heard testimony on a bill that would allow judges to require criminal defendants to disclose their infectious disease status if the judge deemed that their blood or bodily fluids "substantially threatened" the health of another person, the Springfield Union-News reports. The bill, introduced by Rep. Gale Candaras (D), is "intended to protect police, firefighters, crime victims and others" who come into contact with the blood or bodily fluids of someone with an infectious disease. Candaras submitted the bill after state Supreme Judicial Court Justice Martha Sosman ruled in February that Luis Ortiz, whose blood "splattered" police during a Jan. 22 confrontation, did not have to disclose his HIV status because state privacy laws guaranteed "absolute confidentiality." Under the proposed law, a judge could order a criminal defendant to reveal his or her disease status after first determining that "the suspect's blood or bodily fluids substantially threatened the health of another person." The defendant's medical records would remain sealed in the court. Bennett Klein, a lawyer for the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, told the committee that the bill would "undermine" efforts to curb the spread of infectious diseases because "medical privacy has been critical" to encouraging individuals, worried about the "stigma and fear" associated with diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C, to get tested. But Candaras said the bill "makes common sense" and asked, "How is it that we must protect the privacy of the offenders ... while looking the other way when it comes to the health of those men and women who protect us and keep us healthy every day?" (Ring, Springfield Union-News, 6/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.