So you read in the newspaper that a close friend of yours has been in an accident.
You are looking for information to indicate whether your friend is alright or in medical danger so you can react accordingly. Did they suffer cuts and lacerations, or did they sustain broken bones or serious trauma injuries?
A medical classification of their condition - stable, critical, serious or treated and released - would answer most of those questions.
You can forget that if the patient is being treated by Susquehanna Health, as the hospitals in the system are no longer releasing information about patient conditions under a new policy that took effect Thursday.
The new policy goes further than federal law requires or recommends, according to Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. Hospitals are allowed to release patient conditions because that is not sensitive medical information, she said.
Such information gives people a clearer understanding of what actually happened in a fire, accident or other emergency.
"Is it a broken finger or a broken neck, that's an important detail," Melewsky pointed out.
We respect the privacy of patients in difficult situations and understand why sensitive medical information is withheld. And we appreciate that Susquehanna Health has conceded it will provide some information for the general public in the event of a natural, biological or chemical disaster to let the public know how many patients are being treated at hospitals.
We don't understand why general details about a patient's condition that might alleviate misunderstandings and hearsay about a person's friends, family and the community are being withheld.
It strikes us as one more body blow against the free release of information the public has the right to know and can be informed of without harming anyone's privacy.