Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 24, 2003 / 27 Elul, 5763

Privacy law hinders clergy's access to parishioners who are hospitalized

By Sarah Carr and Scott Williams


Printer Friendly Version

Email this article


Religious and ill? An expanding government is making it harder for you to receive "spiritual healing" along with your medical treatment


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | MILWAUKEE — Rabbi Leonard Lewy worries about what could be lost in the name of privacy.

Gone are the days when members of the clergy could walk into a hospital, open the patient files and scan the names for their parishioners.

New federal rules designed to protect patient privacy have complicated one of the traditional roles of the clergy: visiting and aiding the sick and the dying in the hospital. In most cases, patients must now consent to having their names and conditions released before the hospital may do so.

In one instance, Lewy said, three members of a group for Jewish adults with special needs fell ill and died in the hospital without the Jewish Chaplaincy Program even finding out they had been hospitalized.

He believes his organization would have been aware of the illnesses before the latest version of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act took effect in April. The law is aimed at preserving patients' rights by ensuring their names and conditions are not released against their will.

"Sometimes in protecting privacy, we can cut off our nose to spite our own face," Lewy said.

By networking with hospital officials and nursing homes, Lewy hopes to mitigate any unforeseen or harmful consequences of the law.

Because of the complexity of the act's regulations and their relative newness, hospitals have interpreted the rules in varying ways.

Some no longer allow clergy access to computerized databases of patients, for instance. Others now compile lists of patients who have agreed to release their names and present them to clergy.

Clergy members have responded by educating their flocks - posting notices in newsletters instructing them to call religious leaders directly if a family member is hospitalized.

Still, they worry that a newly admitted patient without the ability to ask for a clergy member may never be discovered.

"We have to adjust our way of thinking," said Father Dennis Andrews of St. Cecelia Catholic Church in Thiensville, Wis. Before the new rules, some hospitals would call area churches to notify them of parishioners who had been admitted for medical care, he said.

Donate to JWR

At St. Mary's Medical Center and St. Luke's Memorial Hospital, both in Racine, Wis., clergy members are no longer allowed to look up patients on computers, said Eric Kaminski, the manager of privacy and corporate compliance for All Saints Healthcare System.

The new system lists patients - with their permission - on a special directory for churches. It seems to be working well, Kaminski said, although some clergy members were put off initially.

"There were some congregations that had the habit of calling every morning and asking about patients," said Peter M. Ruta, the supervisor of the Chaplaincy Services Department at Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital in Wauwatosa, Wis. "We can't do this because of the HIPAA regulations. This has created some tensions, but we are trying to educate one another."

For instance, Ruta said hospital chaplains have attended meetings of clergy associations to explain the new law. And some clergy members are becoming hospital volunteers so they can have a deeper relationship and better access.

"In some situations, I think there has been confusion and concern that the hospital is holding back a name when in reality the family and patient have requested that it be held back," said Mary Kay Grasmick, Wisconsin Hospital Association spokeswoman.

No rabbi or priest expressed a wish to visit parishioners against their will - or publicize to a congregation information about an illness that a member wishes to keep quiet. But they are concerned that amid all the confusion of being admitted to a hospital, a patient may forget or be incapable of requesting clergy.

"We all have to work a little harder to make sure the rules don't get in the way of these connections taking place," Lewy said.

Father John Celichowski, the pastor of St. Benedict the Moor in Milwaukee, said the church still usually finds out if a consistent churchgoer is hospitalized. Word will come from the family itself or through the church grapevine.

However, now the religious community might not ever hear if a more distant member is sick.

"The bigger change is for people who are inactive or marginal members of the parishes," he said.

What's disappearing is the notion of the hospital as a "middle man" between the patient and the clergy, according to Father Alan Veik, the director of chaplain services for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. His organization has been advising parish leaders to explain the changes to their members.

The nationwide Association of Professional Chaplains is also explaining the complex regulations to its 4,000 members, seeking to combat what the organization says is widespread confusion among clergy and hospitals alike.

"There's an awful lot of concerns," said Jo Schrader, executive director of the group in Schaumburg, Ill. Her group wants to establish a standard interpretation of the rules.

Meanwhile, Lewy hopes the word spreads fast. The adults with special needs who passed away "had become very dear to us," he said.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Sarah Carr and Scott Williams are reporters for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Comment by clicking here.

© 2003, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services