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Government Medicine Privacy Idle

New Jersey Rejects Request For Dolphin Necropsy Results, Cites "Medical Privacy" (muckrock.com) 228

v3rgEz writes: When a dolphin died in New Jersey's South River last year, Carly Sitrin wanted to know what killed it. So she filed a public record request to the NJ Department of Agriculture in order to get the necropsy results. The DOA finally responded last week with the weird decision to deny the release of the record on grounds of medical privacy. The response reads in part: "We are in receipt of your request for information (#W101407) under the auspices of the State’s Open Public Records Act (O.P.R.A.). Specifically, you requested any and all reports associated with the necropsy of the dolphin that strayed into the South River on August 5, 2015 in Middlesex County, New Jersey. This request is denied as it would release information deemed confidential under O.P.R.A., specifically information related to a medical diagnosis or evaluation. (E.O. 26, McGreevey)"
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New Jersey Rejects Request For Dolphin Necropsy Results, Cites "Medical Privacy"

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  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Monday January 11, 2016 @03:33PM (#51280415)

    Let's hope when Governor Christie eats his next cow, nobody will tell him that it has mad cow's disease, since that would violate the privacy of the dead cow.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's not the dolphin's privacy that would be violated...but the privacy of all the people who are on antidepressants and birth-control, the after-effects of which pass through sewage treatment and into the river.

      That's my theory, anyway. The truth might be something far more insidious.

    • I always love comments like this that assume all such decisions are made by the Governor and not some low level bureaucrat.

      • by mspohr ( 589790 )

        It's highly unlikely that this twisted logic decision was made by a "low level bureaucrat". More likely a "high level bureaucrat" (i.e. Christie) is hiding something which would be politically embarrassing.

        • What politically embarrassing item could that be? That this dolphin had secret information about the bridge closure surgically implanted into its cerebral cortex, and it was returning the plans to the princess?

          • That's no dolphin.

            I'm not saying it was aliens, but ...

          • That must be it. It's irksome when one figure is blamed for absolutely everything, it shows a lack of scope and understanding. I'm no fan of Obama, but I don't blame him for absolutely everything happening in DC right now. Same applies to Christie.
          • What politically embarrassing item could that be?

            That the water quality led directly or indirectly to the dolphins death, kind of like the beluga situation in the St-Laurence river

        • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

          I sincerely doubt that the Governor would ever make a decision at that level, even in a cover-up situation. It was either a bureaucrat who was either following the letter of the regulations too closely, or they decided that they couldn't be bothered.

          If it was really that big a deal, there would be a troubleshooter who would deal with that who is a political appointee attached to some executive office.

          If you think this trivial stuff bubbles up to the Governor regularly, you have no idea at the scale at whic

          • by mspohr ( 589790 )

            Christie has demonstrated (Bridgegate) that he has lots of minions to provide him with plausible deniability. So, yes, you are right it asserting it was probably not Christie himself. Most probably one of his minions covering up for the failings of government. I still doubt that it was a "low level bureaucrat" who came up with that tortured logic for denial... they're just not (allowed to be) that creative.

      • This request is denied as it would release information deemed confidential under O.P.R.A., specifically information related to a medical diagnosis or evaluation. (E.O. 26, McGreevey)

        Uhm, that "E.O 26, McGreevey" means the decision was based on an Executive Order, #26, enacted by former NJ Gov. Jim ("I am a gay American") McGreevey.

        Ultimately the decision was made by a Gov., it was the Executive Order that led (required) the bureaucrat to deny the request.

    • by mspohr ( 589790 )

      www.cowspiracy.com

  • The water? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob MacDonald ( 3394145 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @03:36PM (#51280465)
    That has to be it right, the results would show how toxic the water is, forcing the state to step in and clean it up. That's the only logical reason for denying this request.
    • That has to be it right, the results would show how toxic the water is, forcing the state to step in and clean it up. That's the only logical reason for denying this request.

      Yep. Another case of "follow the money."

    • Re:The water? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @03:45PM (#51280583)

      Or the bureaucrat could have been lazy and decided it was easier to deny the request that get the information. Never ascribe to malice what can easily be ascribed to incompetence.

      • Re:The water? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @03:57PM (#51280731) Homepage

        Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.

        Laziness to the point of making up non-existent rights? That's pretty much malice.

        • Put yourself in the position of a bureaucrat making the decision.
          Scenario 1.
          Allow the information out, later find that was an incorrect decision and possibly lose job.
          Scenario 2;
          Deny the request, let the appeal process resolve it and keep job.
          Which would you chose.

          • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

            Well... if this attracts the attention of high level bureaucrats in the capital, that person could be in for trouble. Yes, it makes sense to have the appeals process deal with it, but you do not want people in the state capital getting wind of your actions. Then you're in for a world of trouble.

            I think this person just broke the First Law of State Bureaucracy: Thou shall not be noticed by the politicians.

        • Dolphin Lives Matter!!!
      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

        Or the bureaucrat could have been lazy and decided it was easier to deny the request that get the information. Never ascribe to malice what can easily be ascribed to incompetence.

        To paraphrase the HHGTTG movie:"But this isn't the Aquatic Mammal Necropsy Release Request form. Those are blue."

      • Or the bureaucrat could have been lazy and decided it was easier to deny the request that get the information. Never ascribe to malice what can easily be ascribed to incompetence.

        You're assuming that there was even detailed paperwork to begin with and that the dolphin wasn't just incinerated/buried as soon as they found out after 30 seconds that the dolphin wasn't carrying signs of rabies, drugs, or weapons of mass destruction, despite what the New Jersey police officer said in his report when he discharged 38 bullets into the animal in self-defense, mortally wounding it.

        • by I'm New Around Here ( 1154723 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @04:51PM (#51281345)

          Or the bureaucrat could have been lazy and decided it was easier to deny the request that get the information. Never ascribe to malice what can easily be ascribed to incompetence.

          You're assuming that there was even detailed paperwork to begin with and that the dolphin wasn't just incinerated/buried as soon as they found out after 30 seconds that the dolphin wasn't carrying signs of rabies, drugs, or weapons of mass destruction, despite what the New Jersey police officer said in his report when he discharged 38 bullets into the animal in self-defense, mortally wounding it.

          To be fair, it was carrying a knife.

      • Re:The water? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ttucker ( 2884057 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @04:45PM (#51281291)

        Or it could just be the default response for any document from the medical examiner, and their computer system lacks the distinction between human and animal medical exams.

        A small media circus is still probably the only way to get the documents, so here we go?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      Personally, If I lived in NJ I would be really annoyed the state wasted money performing a necropsy on a non-food non endangered animal, that had stayed from its usual habitat anyway.

      Seems like pretty stupid allocation of resources.

      • Re:The water? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by yodleboy ( 982200 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @04:02PM (#51280779)
        Look at this another way, someone with the state of New Jersey felt that they were justified in performing a necropsy on a non-food, non-endangered animal. Now they won't share the results. Why did they feel the necropsy was necessary, and what did they find that they don't want to share? The necropsy bit could be perfectly innocent. Someone took advantage of the rarity of having a large dead marine mammal to run tests on, maybe to prove that there wasn't anything in the water, per se, that killed it. It's the refusal to share the results that is suspicious...

        If this shakes out as a public safety issue and/or government corruption/cover-up, then it would be money well spent.
      • Personally, If I lived in NJ I would be really annoyed ..

        You can stop right there and your statement is accurate.

    • Re:The water? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by The-Ixian ( 168184 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @03:51PM (#51280661)

      Or it could be that this is the rubber stamp that is always applied to medical records when they are requested.

      It is above the pay grade of the low level bureaucrat to make the distinction between animal and human (if there is one).

      • by Muros ( 1167213 )

        Or it could be that this is the rubber stamp that is always applied to medical records when they are requested.

        It is above the pay grade of the low level bureaucrat to make the distinction between animal and human (if there is one).

        Does the Department of Agriculture perform many human autopsies?

        • Does the Department of Agriculture perform many human autopsies?

          No idea.

          But it is easy enough for me to see the scenario:

          A request comes across my desk for a medical record. I consult my little cheat sheet of requests which are automatically denied. Lo-and-behold, medical records is on the list. I ink up my deny stamp and give it a good whack on the request. Next issue.

        • Does the department which does the autopsy even handle OPRA requests, or is it automatically forwarded to the legal council section first? My guess is it hit the desk of first line support, it said medical, and they stamped it "Denied" as a matter of course. There's no sense in having an entire department of OPRA service at every single executive division, and having $16/hr drones check the paperwork for obvious issues at a central office is easier and cheaper than having actual lawyers review everything.

          Be

        • Putting DOA and human atopsies together somehow starts making me wonder if this is a case of Mulder and Sculley. All that is missing is the smoking man.

      • It is above the pay grade of the low level bureaucrat to make the distinction between animal and human (if there is one).

        If you read TFA, it shows the section of law that exempts this information from FOIA requests. It uses the term "individual". Miriam Webster [merriam-webster.com] lists several definitions of that word, one of which is: "of, relating to, or existing as just one member or part of a larger group". It does not specify "human" in that definition. Surely, this one dolphin was just one member of the larger group, and it certainly behaved in ways that would individuate itself from that group.

        Of course, when the law was written the s

        • It is above the pay grade of the low level bureaucrat to make the distinction between animal and human (if there is one).

          If you read TFA, it shows the section of law that exempts this information from FOIA requests. It uses the term "individual". Miriam Webster [merriam-webster.com] lists several definitions of that word, one of which is: "of, relating to, or existing as just one member or part of a larger group". It does not specify "human" in that definition. Surely, this one dolphin was just one member of the larger group, and it certainly behaved in ways that would individuate itself from that group.

          Of course, when the law was written the situation of autopsying a dolphin wasn't considered. But in this case "other animal" vs. "human" wasn't a distinction the law makes. The bureaucrat didn't need to make that decision.

          Good points. The EO also makes reference to "natural persons' later, adding to the confusion. But I think you are correct in stating the person who denied the request probably saw "medical Records" and their mandatory annual training said medical records are not subject to FOIA requests and thus denied the request. In addition, it's easier (read safer) to deny a request and let someone higher in the food chain overrule it than to release something that shouldn't be released. You can always point to some rul

        • the legal definition is more relevant. try http://thelawdictionary.org/in... [thelawdictionary.org]

    • Another Christie-gate about to blow.
  • by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @03:37PM (#51280477) Homepage Journal

    Sounds to me like someone just didn't want to go through the administrative hassle of gathering the information, copying it, and handing it over. Obviously, that shouldn't be allowed unless the DOA can provide some evidence that it will compromise the privacy of an actual person.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @03:40PM (#51280503) Journal
      Isn't it practically part of the job to start out by denying the request on any grounds that a naive text search suggest are relevant; just to discourage the pesky users from bothering you and force the actually committed ones to really work for it?
      • by The-Ixian ( 168184 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @04:14PM (#51280911)

        I think this also is a good theory.

        I have been told by people who work in social services that the government ALWAYS denies the first request for government services like disability. Doesn't matter if it was endorsed by a medical professional or whatever, the first request is always denied. That ends up weeding out a huge percentage of the people applying since many of them shrug and give up.

    • Sorry then you would know that dolphins getting aggressive when they are frisky isn't an urban legend... stay away from hippie chicks w/ dolphin tattoos that's how you get hepatitis.

  • Medical privacy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chas ( 5144 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @03:37PM (#51280481) Homepage Journal

    Okay, I beg the pardon of the PETA folks (actually no I don't...*Kicks a kitten*).
    But it's a fucking animal that died in public waterway and was autopsied on the public dime.

    People who wish to know have a right to that information.

    I want to know what mental defective thought "medical privacy" was an appropriate excuse.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      The excuse "Medical privacy" when it comes to a wild animal is really causing the person using it to look like a fool.

      • The excuse "Medical privacy" when it comes to a wild animal is really causing the person using it to look like a fool.

        The person who rejected the FOIA request 'signed' his name in Comic Sans. This is not a person who is concerned about looking like a fool.

    • I want to know what mental defective thought "medical privacy" was an appropriate excuse.

      Probably someone who didn't add "human" to the Scope of the regulation in question. I'm sure no one thought it was an appropriate excuse for an animal and thus we end up in the situation we're in, applying regulations in stupid scenarios.

    • by Lehk228 ( 705449 )
      I want to know what mental defective thought "medical privacy" was an appropriate excuse.

      somebody who had 10 more to review and only 15 minutes till lunch.

      >picks up paper
      >see's word "necropsy"
      >"hey sid, what's a necropsy?"
      >"it's like an autopsy"
      >[DENIED]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 11, 2016 @03:45PM (#51280577)

    just sounds fishy to me.

  • Prescott Pharmaceuticals, says the side effects from dumping the reduction of Vagisil into Gardasil into the ocean may include: meaty run off, star shower toe, fickle rectum, and nunya dolphin*.

    *nunya dolphin means none-of-ya-damn-business-about-the-damn-dolphin-death so we are sealing it for confidentiality.

    Remember - Prescott Pharmaceuticals, good for what ails your smelly dolphin.

  • The State of NJ flogged the dolphin.

  • by sbaker ( 47485 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @03:49PM (#51280633) Homepage

    How would you like to respond to this request for information:

    [1] Provide information
    [2] Deny information

    Congratulations! You've decided to "Deny information".

    What kind of form letter would you like to respond with:

    [1] Military secret
    [2] Medical privacy
    [3] Area 51-related incident
    [4] The dog ate our report
    [5] Major government coverup of unspecified nature

    Do you wish to include additional information?

    [1] No
    [2] Yes

    Please enter additional information:

    222222222222222222222222222222222222222222

    Ready to send?

    [1] No
    [2] Yes

  • is if dolphins are people too. Animals have no right to privacy.
  • But where does it stop? Dogs? Squirrels? Insects? E Coli?

    Dare I flush the toilet without permission?

  • by bigdady92 ( 635263 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @04:01PM (#51280765) Homepage
    but it's mermaids...
  • There really wasn't any choice. They were forced to deny it under O.R.C.A. - the Open Records of Cetaceans Act.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @04:19PM (#51280961) Homepage
    As a DOA manager, and having overseen part of the autopsy, I can tell you with all certainty that medical privacy is of tyhe utmost importance. Lets face it: you know it, I know it, the world knows it. The south river is about as healthy as a bullet to the head, but many people dont yet know how awful its become outside of the realm of its recent acclaim from the guinness book of records for "most likely to spread an epidemic plague of black death and ebola." For example, did you know that the south river is now viscous enough to float a bowling ball? or did you know that on a cold winters day you can huddle near its many eddies and currents for warmth from its innumerable short and long bursts of radiation as a byproduct of its constant brush with nuclear criticality? Many of my employees tell stories of how after misplacing their cigarette lighter they simply dip the end of a marlborough into the river instead. And lets not get started on "the voices" that compelled nearly two dozen virgin women to enter the deep, never to return.

    trust me. things are well under control and you needn't worry yourself with frivolous reports of the 300 foot tall "dolphin" with "spiderlike appendages" now roaming the countryside in search of "blood and bone." Having communicated with us telephathically it has been very stern in its demand for medical privacy both in words and in the uncontrollable nosebleeds affecting our newborns.
  • norealtextherewaitingoutthetimerandhopingit'senough...

  • Someone find Rick Grimes and KORRAL!

  • (pun partially intended.... yes, I know dophins are not fish).

    There is absolutely *NO* privacy law anywhere that extends to the privacy of animals other than humans except to the extent that they may have human caregivers whose privacy is to be respected.

    I am not ordinarily one to speculate on conspiracy theories, but something just doesn't seem right about this.

    • I am not ordinarily one to speculate on conspiracy theories, but something just doesn't seem right about this.

      It's not that complicated. You're an entry-level public employee who has been given the job of answering FOIA requests. There's a training class or two, perhaps live, perhaps online, where they try to cover the laws that are relevant. They certainly cannot spend the time to do so word by word, delving into the maze of twisty little passages, all alike, that is the law. There are probably Powerpoints with bullet points. "Things that are exempt from release". "C. Medical records".

      Also probably front loaded i

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )

        Releasing it by mistake could mean lawsuits....

        Who could file such a lawsuit? The dolphin's next of kin?

        • Who could file such a lawsuit?

          You do realize that the training which listed possible results of incorrect decisions would not be about specific requests, don't you? A classroom bullet point that says there is a potential for a lawsuit if a request is approved improperly wouldn't be considering that a dolphin would file the lawsuit.

          A decision based on training that says "medical records are exempt" stands alone; it is well outside the job description of the person making the decision to try to guess who might object and who might file a

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Monday January 11, 2016 @04:58PM (#51281409)

    1. Relatively few dolphins can read English, though the New Jersey ESL program is working on that.
    2. Because the dolphin version of the HIPAA consent form is printed on those waterproof pads that divers use to write notes to each other, many individuals have experienced trouble holding a grease pencil in their mouths and writing a legible signature at the bottom of the form. Furthermore, individuals with the requisite agility to accomplish this task tend not to be the dolphins who can read the form in the first place.
    3. In dolphin culture, only the alpha bull of a pod has the legal authority to sign for the release of medical data on a deceased podmate. In the specific case at hand, the NJ Department of Agriculture was unable to obtain a validly signed release.
    4. The head of the NJ DoA, Jerry "Three Fingers" Fibonacci, is under indictment for bribing certain dolphin pod chieftains, using prime tuna from his seafood processing business, to ignore reporting of river pollution in the state of New Jersey. He is suspected of involvement in this specific case. But even if Fibonacci is eventually convicted, legal questions about the translation accuracy of dolphin testimony are intricate enough that they may have to be resolved by the SCOTUS.

  • If Dolphins have a right to privacy, then does that mean we can't film them without permission? How much do we owe Flipper for the movies he made?

    Furthermore there are a lot of US laws that derive from that right. A right to privacy is part of the basis for the right to home schooling, as well as the right to get an abortion, and the legal right for sodomy. (Lawrence vs Texas). Does that mean that consensual sex with a dolphin is now legal in the state of New Jersey?

  • I suspect that if the reason for that dolphin's death were known nobody would buy land or a home anywhere near that area. Is New Jersey now to toxic for human presence?

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