News & Insights  |  Media Mentions

Related Professionals

Practice Areas


Patricia O'Connell
Senior Communications Manager

Kirk Nahra Discusses Privacy Implications of Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Washington Lawyer
May 18, 2015

Kirk J. Nahra, chair of Wiley Rein’s Privacy Practice and co-chair of the Health Care Practice, was quoted in a Washington Lawyer article about privacy challenges related to infectious disease outbreaks such as the 2014 Ebola crisis.

“One of the interests that is relevant and has to be planned for is curiosity,” Mr. Nahra said. “In the Ebola case in Texas, you know that people who worked in that hospital were going to snoop through those records. You have to plan for that, and then you have to police it. You check the records in order to control the legitimate and illegitimate interests.”

“I don’t know that the rules around privacy need to be changed necessarily, but I do think we end up having a lot of appropriate flexibility in the rules,” he added. “Of course, flexibility can be good and bad depending on who makes the decision and who’s reporting on the information.”

Recurring questions have also arisen about whether and how health care institutions or public health agencies should keep secret the names of infected individuals, according to the article.

“Privacy is always a trade-off between the rights of the individual and the society,” Mr. Nahra said. “Health care in any framework has a lot of competing interests. When you throw in the infectious disease component, there are some real challenges in finding the answers.”

To read the article, click here.