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Bill will breach women's privacy, warn Greens

Bill will breach women's privacy, warn Greens

Green MP Sue Kedgley is warning that doctor-patient confidentiality will be a thing of the past if Parliament changes the rules governing the records of women enrolled on the National Cervical Screening Programme (NCSP) later today.

Under proposed changes to the Health (National Cervical Screening Programme) Amendment Bill all doctors in New Zealand will be required to hand over the healthcare records of any woman who is enrolled on the screening programme, if requested to do so by an 'evaluator' at the NCSP, without the knowledge or explicit consent of the women whose records are involved.

The information that doctors will be required to hand over to evaluators could include sensitive and intimate information relating to a woman's history of sexual disease, terminations, or any other information that evaluators decide is 'relevant' to their investigation and research, Ms Kedgley said.

"If these amendments are passed, New Zealand women will be faced with Hobson's Choice. Either they stay on the National Cervical Screening Programme and surrender their right to informed consent, or they opt off the programme and risk both their health and the efficacy of a nationwide screening programme. This is tragic."

Ms Kedgley said the Green Party was vehemently opposed to the new amendments, and would be putting forward amendments to restore informed consent. "In our view consent should always be sought before a person's personal health information and sensitive medical records can be accessed."

It has long been recognised that medical records contain highly sensitive and intimate information, and need special protections, she said. "That is why we have a Health Information Privacy Code which protects the confidentiality of patient information and access to medical records.

"Unless our amendments are successful, the National Cervical Screening Programme will be weakened, as women who do not want their primary healthcare records accessed without their consent choose to opt off ."

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