Palestinian Workers Right: Medical Confidentiality
Migrant Workers’ Right to Medical Confidentiality
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel receives dozens of
complaints each year from migrant workers whose right to
medical confidentiality has been violated by their health
insurance companies. This widespread occurrence in which the
person’s medical information being given to the employer or
manpower company directly by the insurance company, in a
manner which endangers his job and thus his ability to
The insurance companies claim that the employer is the quickest and most efficient pipeline to transfer information- usually only in Hebrew- to the employee. One of the largest insurance companies even told PHR-Israel that the employer, as the owner of the policy, has the right to full disclosure regarding the employee’s status, or at least regarding the examinations and treatments he undergoes.
In addition to the violation of the migrant workers’ right to medical confidentiality, a concern arises that the employer will fire the employee, based on the information, and replace him with another. In the last several years Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has encountered quite a few cases like this- in some of these cases the insurance companies, who have an economic interest in stopping the policy (which occurs once the employee is fired) instead of paying for expensive services, actually encouraged the employers to act in this manner.
Transferring the information to the employer instead of to the insured person leads to the latter not being aware of his medical condition, and is unaware of his right, and thus is not capable of realizing them.
In the event that the insurance companies refuse, for any reason, to cover the costs of any treatment, the company must allow the insured person to appeal the decision and supply him with information regarding the appeals process, including the ability to turn to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel for assistance. By transferring the information to the employer, the employee is deprived of this option. These rights are based on the Israeli Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom, Patient’s Rights Act and rules of medical ethics, amongst others.
On 22 February 2006, Adv. Dori Spivac from the Human Rights Program at Tel Aviv University, on behalf of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, demanding that the Supervisor of Insurance (appointed by the Finance Ministry) clarify to the insurance companies that as a rule they cannot pass on medical information to the employers. The supervisor’s office said that the complaint will be immediately investigated and in the event that the companies do not observe the insured’s right to medical confidentiality it will directly release proper regulations on the matter.
Additionally, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel demands that the occupational physician:
1) Be aware of the role he plays (judging work capability, investigator, et al) and to guarantee that the patient also be aware of this.
2) Guarantee that waiving the right to medical confidentiality is done out of free will and not due to the employer’s pressure.
3) Clarify to the employee that he can receive additional opinions from other sources to protect his rights.
4) Will limit the transfer of medical information, and only with the knowledge and approval of the patients, to information relevant to the employer, meaning, the employee’s ability to perform his work. There is no justification to reveal any additional information to the employer.
The fact the doctor is not in a healing role does not release him from his ethical responsibilities.