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The Western Psych grand jury report: Do the right thing

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Whether an Allegheny County grand jury's recommendation to not seek criminal charges against UPMC's Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic for routinely failing to report sexual assaults and not cooperating with criminal investigations is prudent remains to be seen. Even considering professions of a new cooperative climate, it's counterintuitive to think this tiger will change its stripes.

But no matter what Western Psych does, what must change — immediately — is the proclivity of all medical institutions to seek refuge under an overly expansive definition of patient confidentiality that, in cases such as these, only hurts patients.

Western Psych came under fire from District Attorney Steve Zappala last year after a female patient, 8, was assaulted by another patient. Involving police was treated as an option. And the grand jury impaneled by Mr. Zappala came to the shocking conclusion that seven sexual assaults between April 2007 and March 2013 were either not reported to police or that hospital officials denied investigators access to evidence.

Good grief, had these been murders, would Western Psych have hidden the bodies?

Having dodged criminal culpability, UPMC continues to blame the state's Mental Health Protection Act. But we suggest it abide by a higher calling — the Do What's Right Act.

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