Feeds

Dead woman's medical records case could undermine FOI law

Privacy boffin weighs in on legal grey area

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

A dead woman's medical records should not be released because a duty of confidentiality survives her death, the Information Tribunal has ruled. The decision backs an earlier ruling by the Information Commissioner.

A privacy specialist, though, has said the decision defines exemptions to Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation too widely, and was reached because there is no cohesive body of law relating to the rights of dead people.

The tribunal had to make the decision about whether the duty of confidentiality could survive a person's death despite admitting there was no case law or legal authority on which to base its decision.

A witness in the proceedings from the General Medical Council said it had a policy stating that there could be moral, ethical, or professional duties compelling a doctor to maintain confidentiality after a patient's death, but confirmed there was no legal obligation to do so.

The tribunal heard that if the duty of confidence did not survive a patient it could undermine the relationship of trust between doctors and patients. It was compared in the hearing to legal professional privilege.

The tribunal ruled that the duty of confidence between the patient and the doctor must survive her death. "We agree with the [hospital] trust and the Information Commissioner that, as a matter of principle, the basis of the duty in respect of private information lies in conscience," said the ruling.

The case concerned Karen Davies, who died at Epsom General Hospital in 1998 at the age of 33. In 2003 it emerged that the hospital had admitted liability in Davies' death and paid a substantial compensation settlement to her widower Richard Davies on behalf of himself and the couple's two children.

Karen Davies's mother Pauline Bluck has since sought access to Davies's medical records to establish what happened. The hospital refused to release them without the permission of her next of kin, Richard Davies, who refused permission.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.