Assemblywoman Norma Torres, D-Pomona, announced today that she plans to introduce legislation to "protect the privacy of 9-1-1 medical emergency calls."
The Pomona Democrat, who worked as a 9-1-1 call operator for 18 years, said in a statement that medical emergency calls "contain private and sensitive information that should never be broadcast to the world."
Moore was hospitalized last month after paramedics responded to a call for medical assistance at her Los Angeles home. Portions of the tape of the 9-1-1 call, which was released last week, includes an unidentified woman telling the operator that Moore was "semiconscious" and "convulsing" after smoking something " similar to incense." The tape was edited before its release to remove statements that could violate medical privacy rules, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Torres spokeswoman Catalina Martinez said while the office is still working out the details of the proposal, she expects the legislation to make a distinction between medical emergency calls and other 9-1-1 calls.
"(Torres) understands that especially when it comes to public service, there's that need for the public to know what happened, but there should be limits to what is out there," she said.
Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, said the state Public Records Act already includes an exemption allowing authorities to block release of information that constitutes an "unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." Federal privacy laws also limit information gathered during treatment by medical professionals.
"I think the law right now probably has sufficient flexibility to allow not the withholding of entire tapes, that would be rarely justified, but the withholding of certain sections of a tape... where personal privacy would be greatly breached to no obvious public good," he said.
He noted that 9-1-1 tapes can also be a tool for the public to measure whether people in life-saving positions, such as paramedics and police, "are doing their job properly."
"9-1-1 tapes are useful on an individual basis and more generally to give people confidence that those services are being properly provided and administered," he said.
PHOTO CREDIT: In this Oct. 17, 2011 file photo, actress Demi Moore attends the premiere of "Margin Call" in New York. A spokeswoman for Moore on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012 said the actress is seeking professional help to treat her exhaustion and improve her health. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer, File)