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In "Hospital Visitors: Breaking Bad News" (Insights on Death and Dying, January 2005), a reader asked what to do if a visitor comes to see a patient who'd just died. She was advised to "guide the visitor to a quiet area and say something like this: 'I'm terribly sorry. Mr. Jenkins died this morning.'"


According to guidelines in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you may release or share patient information only with certain people. In this case, as tactless as it may feel, the visitor should have been told to call the family and inquire about the patient. We have no one to blame but the bureaucracy, which makes nurses appear to be heartless. But I for one am not willing to risk a lawsuit or loss of my job in this day and age.