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A Message On Medical Confidentiality

Alcohol problems and the subsequent reactions have come to the forefront at MIT over the past few years, for fairly obvious reasons. This topic is not limited to MIT, but is a growing question for universities across the country -- how to address both the rights and responsibilities of students in an environment of ever-increasing media scrutiny.

Providing comprehensive and expert health care is the primary goal of MIT Medical, and in this case and in every case, a critical part of the vehicle to that provision is confidentiality. While national data on the age group shows that greater than 15 percent will struggle with alcohol abuse and/or dependence, this fact must be addressed while maintaining the trust of the community.

MIT Medical is bound by professional ethics and the law to ensure that patient confidentiality will not be breached under any circumstances. Information regarding individual student medical care including alcohol treatment is not transmitted to parents or to any MIT administrative office. Students should not fear calling MIT Medical or the Student Emergency Medical Services for fear of disciplinary repercussions, either for the student in need of care or for the individuals surrounding the incident.

It is the goal of MIT Medical to address the problem of alcohol abuse as an epidemiological problem, much as it might address an epidemic of salmonella or another disease. After providing the necessary care via a health care professional, individual incidents will be used solely as anonymous data points in an examination of the system as a whole, in an attempt to discover and address any problems that might be present.

In all communities, from time to time, there are fragile members who need all the structure and support a real community can offer. MIT is no exception. We are committed to designing policies that both protect individual patient confidentiality and provide a safety net for people in serious difficulty. While we acknowledge the role of disciplinary action and the need to carefully consider both individual student rights and community safety, it is not the role of MIT Medical to levy disciplinary sanctions.

We invite all community members to learn more about the ongoing projects and the resources available by contacting Dean Danny Trujillo at the Office of Community Development and Substance Abuse programs, ; Maryanne Kirkbride, the Clinical Director for Campus Life, ; or Harel Williams, with the Undergraduate Association’s Committee on Student Life .

Josiah D. Seale ’03