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Mayo Clinic sued in alleged snooping of nude patient photos

June 30, 2021 GMT

ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) — Mayo Clinic has been sued by three female patients who say a former surgery resident viewed nude photographs of them in their medical records.

The lawsuits claim Ahmad Alsughayer, 28, of Saginaw, Michigan, had no reason to go into the patients’ files. Alsughayer allegedly viewed the records of 1,614 patients and was charged in April with one count of unauthorized computer access.

The Star Tribune reports that three of the women have sued Mayo, with the most recent lawsuit filed in May. One of the lawsuits alleges Mayo failed to use a feature in its electronic health records system that would have limited access to highly sensitive medical records and prevented the breach.

Another alleges that Mayo Clinic knew, but didn’t tell the woman, that Alsughayer had requested access to records, and that Mayo chose not to take precautions to prevent it. Two of the lawsuits seek class-action status.

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Mayo Clinic told the Star Tribune its staff investigated the incident, found that one employee viewed the medical information, and notified authorities and affected patients. A spokeswoman referred the newspaper to its prior statements and the court file, citing the pending criminal case and lawsuits.

In a statement in October, Mayo said: “Mayo Clinic is strongly committed to protecting the privacy of our patients, and we sincerely regret that this incident occurred.” The statement said Mayo Clinic took the matter seriously and was reviewing its policies and procedures.

Alsughayer’s attorney in the criminal case, Marsh Halberg, declined to comment to the Star Tribune.

On Oct. 5, Mayo Clinic sent out a news release saying that on Aug. 5 it confirmed “suspicious access” to medical records of 1,614 patients by one former employee. Mayo’s letters to patients said an unnamed employee had inappropriately accessed files with their name, demographic information, date of birth, medical record number, clinical notes, “and, in some instances, images.”

A Mayo spokeswoman told the Star Tribune last November that because of the number of patients affected, Mayo Clinic staff notified police and the FBI. The clinic also reported the matter to “applicable licensing boards.” Mayo Clinic said Alsughayer’s employment “was ending” when the breach was discovered.