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New Bill undermines privacy of women's health info

New Bill undermines privacy of women's health information

Green Party Health spokesperson Sue Kedgley said she was alarmed at the proposal to allow automatic access to women's sensitive medical records without their consent, contained in amendments to the Health (Screening Programmes) Amendment Bill, which was tabled in Parliament today.

Ms Kedgley said the proposal undermined the privacy of personal health information and the approach to privacy issues that New Zealand has taken over recent years.

"It undermines the confidentiality, and therefore the basis of trust, in the GP-patient relationship," Ms Kedgley said. "It provides a precedent for further undermining the privacy of personal health information in New Zealand."

Health information has long been recognised as being highly sensitive. It includes intimate details about an individual's body, lifestyle and behaviour.

Ms Kedgley said many consumer groups had expressed great concern at such a proposal, when it was mooted last year, and she could not understand why the rest of the committee had not listened to women's concerns on the issue.

"Under the amendments, sensitive records on sexually transmitted infections, terminations or sexual abuse, could be accessed by screening programme evaluators," she said.

Ms Kedgley said there was a danger, if the amendments passed through Parliament, that they would provoke a backlash against the National Cervical Screening Programme, and a reduction of the numbers of women enrolled on the NCSP, as women opted out of the programme because they did not want their primary health care records being accessed by an unspecified number of evaluators.

Ms Kedgley said the Green Party believed that consent should always be sought before personal health care records were accessed. She said she believed that the vast majority of women would consent to be on the NCSP, providing that the confidentiality and security of sensitive health information was assured.

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