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A million NZ women lose their medical privacy

Monday, 7 March 2005,

A million NZ women lose their medical privacy tomorrow

The Green Party says a law change tomorrow spells the end of doctor-patient confidentiality for the one million women enrolled on the National Cervical Screening Programme (NCSP).

The new rules that take effect on Monday, passed in the Health (National Cervical Screening Programme) Amendment Bill last year, will require all doctors in New Zealand to hand over GP and other personal healthcare records of any woman enrolled on the programme, without her knowledge or consent, if requested by an evaluator.

“Doctors will be required to hand over sensitive and intimate information relating to women’s history, or anything else that evaluators consider relevant to their investigations and research,” said Sue Kedgley, the Green Party’s Health and Women’s Issues Spokesperson.

“As a result of this law change, New Zealand women are faced with a Hobson’s choice. Either they stay on the nationwide screening programme and surrender their right to informed consent, or they opt out and risk both their health and the efficacy of the programme. “This is tragic.”

Ms Kedgley said the Health Ministry has never properly explained why it needs automatic access without consent to the healthcare records of all women enrolled in the programme, rather than just those of women who develop cancer.

“In the Greens’ view, consent should always be sought before someone’s personal health information and medical records can be accessed.

“At the very least, women on the registry should have been asked for their written consent to remain on the program with the clear understanding that they are surrendering their right of informed consent. Regrettably this has not happened. A letter recently sent to the million affected women did not inform them of the full scope and powers of the new law or ask them for their written agreement to this significant change to their contract with their GP. “It has long been recognised that medical records contain highly sensitive and intimate information, such as a history of sexual disease or terminations, and that they therefore need special protection. That is why we have a health information privacy code. This legislation undermines that code.”


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