Parliamentary Library pulls article on police access to My Health Record data

Article pulled offline after Department of Health raised concerns

The Parliamentary Library has temporarily taken down an article that argued provisions in the legislation that governs law enforcement access to the My Health Record system represent “a significant reduction in the legal threshold for the release of private medical information to law enforcement”.

“Currently, unless a patient consents to the release of their medical records, or disclosure is required to meet a doctor’s mandatory reporting obligations (e.g. in cases of suspected child sexual abuse), law enforcement agencies can only access a person’s records (via their doctor) with a warrant, subpoena or court order,” the article stated.

The article cited Australian Medical Association guidelines that stated the AMA “believes that any action by third parties, including Government, to compel doctors to disclose patients’ medical records must overwhelmingly be proven to serve the public interest. The public benefit of such disclosure must outweigh the risk that patients may not seek medical attention or may modify the personal information they disclose to their doctor because of fears their privacy will be breached...

“In cases where there is a warrant, subpoena or court order requiring the doctor to produce a patient’s medical record, some doctors and/or patients may wish to oppose disclosure of clinically sensitive or potentially harmful information. The records should still be supplied but under seal, asking that the court not release the records to the parties until it has heard argument against disclosure.”

“It seems unlikely that this level of protection and obligation afforded to medical records by the doctor-patient relationship will be maintained, or that a doctor’s judgement will be accommodated, once a patient’s medical record is uploaded to My Health Record and subject to section 70 of the My Health Records Act 2012,” the article said.

“The Department of Health contacted the Library raising concerns about potential omissions in the Flagpost on the My Health record,” a spokesperson for the Department of Parliamentary Services told Computerworld.

“The Library takes seriously its obligation to provide high quality information and analysis and decided to take the post down while it is reviewed and also updated to reflect recent developments.”

The spokesperson said they anticipated the article will be back online later today.

Health minister Greg Hunt and the Department of Health have said that an individual’s My Health Record data will not be accessed by law enforcement agencies in the absence of a court order. However, the legislation does not impose such a requirement.

The AMA has said it is seeking a meeting with Hunt to end ambiguity about law enforcement access to My Health Record.

An archived version of the article is still available online.

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