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Privacy Commissioner On Guthrie Tests

STATEMENT BY THE PRIVACY COMMISSIONER BRUCE SLANE


GUTHRIE TESTS

I have considered the judgments of Justices Salmon and Morris regarding the use of a blood sample taken and retained on the Guthrie card. The public policy issues were argued but are not traversed in detail in the judgments. I am not aware whether there will be any appeal.

There are privacy issues as well as other issues of public policy involved in making these blood samples available for purposes of genetic identification. It is, as far as parents are concerned, an unexpected use of the baby's body sample given for health purposes only.

I intend to enquire generally into the collection, retention, use and disclosure of these samples and to see if there appear to be any changes which ought to be made in the law, information supplied to parents, retention of the samples and to consider the implications of their use and disclosure in civil and criminal cases.

It is important that parents have confidence enough in these matters to give their consent in the interests of their babies.

I will consult widely including the Ministry of Health and the Health and Disability Commissioner, consumer and professional groups.

I will consider whether any changes to the Health Information Privacy Code 1994 ought to be considered.

At this stage I cannot predict how long my enquiries will take.

BH Slane
Privacy Commissioner
17 August 1999

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