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Greenpeace Member Upset Over Release Of VD Test Results

September 19, 1985

MIDLAND, Mich. (AP) _ An environmental activist arrested in a protest against Dow Chemical Co. says results of a jailhouse blood test indicating she might have syphilis were leaked to a Dow official, who spread the word to others.

″It’s been really upsetting. Everyone knows about this,″ said Melissa Ortquist, 27, of New York, a member of the environmental group Greenpeace. ″All my friends have been coming up to me and asking, ’Is it true you have VD?‴

Further blood tests proved she did not have the venereal disease, she said.

Ortquist and four other Greenpeace members were arrested and charged with trespassing in July after they attempted to plug the chemical company’s discharge pipes into the Tittabawassee River.

Midland County Sheriff James McNutt said the five voluntarily gave blood samples to a nurse at the Midland County Jail after their arrest. He said blood tests are a standard procedure for jail inmates.

Ortquist’s test apparently indicated she might have a venereal disease, and although later tests were negatives, the results of the initial test were somehow leaked to Dow.

″I can tell you ... that I learned about it from our security forces,″ Phillip Schneider, Dow’s public relations director in Michigan, told the Midland Daily News. He said the information was discussed during a ″war-room session″ concerning the Greenpeace protest.

Schneider said he didn’t know the source of the information or the name of the Dow security officer who obtained it. He said it wasn’t passed to Dow by the Midland County Health Department, which received the test result from the state Department of Public Health.

Releasing confidential health information without a patient’s consent is a misdemeanor in Michigan, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Ortquist said she is considering a lawsuit over the incident.

Diane Hebert, director of the Environmental Congress of Mid-Michigan, said Schneider told her about Ortquist’s test result.

Hebert said Schneider had called her to discuss a news story in which Hebert was quoted as saying that Greenpeace ″had a lot of style,″ and that during their conversation he told her about the test.

The Associated Press was unable to reach Schneider on Thursday. Bryan Haviland, a Dow spokesman, said Schneider was on vacation and could not be reached.

Commenting on the leak, Clay Van Riper, disease intervention specialist for the state Department of Public Health in the regional Saginaw office, said, ″I’d like to know their name and title because that person won’t be working for us for very long.″

Haviland said Dow would ″cooperate with Midland County authorities in any inquiry.″

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