By Todd J. Gillman
Trail Blazers Blog
April 03, 2008
Rep. Joe Barton revealed Thursday that he is one the heart patients
whose medical records were on an unencrypted laptop stolen from a
National Institutes of Health researcher.
While all 3,000 or so patients are likely anxious about having their
privacy compromised, the Ennis lawmaker is in a unique position to do
something about it. He's the senior Republican -- and former chairman --
of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has broad
oversight authority over NIH and scores of other agencies.
On Thursday, Barton and a GOP colleague sent the Health and Human
Services Department's inspector general a letter demanding an
investigation of the theft, and explanations for why the personal data
wasn't encrypted as required, and why over a month passed before NIH
notified Barton and other patients about the breech.
Barton had a heart attack in December 2005 during budget negotiations at
The laptop was assigned to a researcher who is studying the use of MRI
scans to help heart patients avoid surgery. He'd left it in the trunk of
his car. It was stolen Feb. 23 in Germantown, Md., a distant suburb of
Washington, but the NIH didn't notify Barton and others whose privacy
was compromised until last week.
A copy of Barton's letter to NIH is here.
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