HPD released a three-sentence statement Tuesday, saying: "The department is concerned and is looking into this matter. We expect our officers to act professionally and abide by departmental policies. The department is currently finalizing a social media policy.”
Police officers routinely are sent to hospitals to check on the condition of suspects in criminal cases or crime victims.
Posting a photo of a hospital patient on the internet without authorization could violate federal law. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountablity Act (HIPAA), passed in 1996, protects the privacy of medical patients. Sources said that HIPAA applies only to health care providers like hospitals, doctors, paramedics and nurses, not to police officers.
HIPAA is a civil, not criminal, statute, so anyone whose privacy was violated would have to sue a health care provider for damages. In this case, the plaintiff would have to prove that an employee at Straub participated in the disclosure, which would be difficult, law enforcement sources said.
Straub Clinic and Hospital has the only burn unit on Oahu. A Straub spokeswoman would not confirm if the man photographed is a patient there because of those medical privacy rules.