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Government

Rudd Govt to abolish patient privacy

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has slammed draft legislation brought forward by the Federal Government, which will allow it the right to access individual patients' records.
Written by Suzanne Tindal, Contributor on

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has slammed draft legislation brought forward by the Federal Government, which will allow it the right to access individual patients' records.

This is 'Big Brother' at its worst.

Dr Rosanna Capolingua

The draft, which the AMA said had been released last Thursday night before the Easter long weekend, would mean the government had the power to "require a document, extract or copy containing health information (within the definition of the Privacy ACT 1988) about an individual".

The legislation had its grounds in making it possible for the government to conduct administrative checks, according to the AMA.

"It is remarkable that a government should take such a step as to violate your personal medical record. This is 'Big Brother' at its worst," the association's president, Dr Rosanna Capolingua, said in a statement.

"This is an act of bureaucratic voyeurism that strips patients of all rights to privacy. It presses the face of government at the keyhole of every surgery in the country. Doctors will be compelled to hand over highly sensitive medical information to justify Medicare claims potentially including a patient's intimate concerns and examination findings, their test results, weight, sexual health, infections ... nothing is protected.

"Worse still, under this legislation patients don't even have the right to know that their records are being accessed. There is no compulsion to even advise patients, let alone seek their permission," Capolingua said.

"Government has no business accessing these records. This information is between the doctor and the patient, and must remain so," she concluded.

There has been a lot of attention on health record privacy in recent times with the attempts to introduce national electronic health records, as they would make private information more readily available. The government is facing the need to pass new legislation to make the introduction of an individual health identifier possible, which the National e-health Transition Authority believed would take until next year.

The office of Federal Minister for Health and Aging Nicola Roxon was unable to provide comment in time for this article.

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