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11-15-95. NYPaper Page One:
"When Patients' Records Are Commodities for Sale."
Individual medical records, carrying more sensitive
personal information than ever before, are increasingly
being gathered and stored by the tens of thousands in
commercial databanks maintained by institutions like
hospital networks, health maintenance organizations and
drug companies. And although there is a Federal law that
protects the privacy of video rental lists, private
medical information is being bought and sold freely.
The issue of medical privacy touches virtually everyone.
"It is true to say that if you know a person's history
of health problems, then you know more about that person
than you would with any other data," said Lawrence O.
Gostin, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center.
And as medical records start including new genetic
information that can predict diseases likely to show up
in years to come, they will be able to reveal "not just
health histories, but health futures," Mr. Gostin said.
Yesterday hearings were held on a bill called the
Medical Records Confidentiality Act, intended to
establish uniform Federal rules for the use and
disclosure of health information.
Although the bill details procedures for obtaining
consent, it also establishes a formidable list of
exceptions to this requirement. The police, health
oversight agencies, health information services, public
health offices and medical researchers are among those
allowed to obtain records of an identified patient
without that person's consent and, in many cases without
MED_vac (15 kb)