Wednesday, March 04, 2015

My View Is That Providing ASIO Access To Patient Records Is Going A Zillion Miles Just Too Far.

This appeared a few days ago:

Push for ASIO to be given better access to patient records

23 February, 2015 Michael Woodhead 34 comments
Photo: AAP
Security services should be given enhanced access to patients' medical records and personal Medicare and PBS data, the inquiry into Sydney's Martin Place siege has recommended.
The inquiry report, released on Sunday, found there was no indication from the medical records of Lindt Chocolate Café attacker Man Haron Monis (pictured) that he posed a risk of violence,
However it went on to conclude that current health privacy legislation "has the potential to inhibit the flow of important information in future cases" and should be reviewed by states and territories "to ensure appropriate access by ASIO [the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation]".
The joint review into the Martin Place siege conducted by the federal and NSW governments also urged for healthcare providers to take on a wider role in screening for potential extremism, and to report it to authorities.
Reviewing the actions that preceded the siege, the inquiry found that Monis had multiple interactions with healthcare providers and agencies.
But "at no time in his multiple encounters with mental health professionals was there evidence that Monis represented a potential risk to others or to himself".
The review noted there was "transactional" information showing Monis' interactions with agencies such as Medicare and the PBS, but none of this information would have changed the security assessment of him and it was not requested or shared with ASIO.
However, despite the lack of relevance in the Monis case, the review identified "legislative impediments" to the sharing of health-related information that should be addressed.
"The Review recommends all States and Territories review relevant legislation, in particular with respect to privacy and health, to ensure appropriate access by ASIO, with a report back to the Council of Australian Governments by mid-2015," it concluded.
The ultimate aim was to encourage "proactive sharing of threat information in a timely way to enable agencies to take preventative action", it said.
The Martin Place siege review also flagged a role for healthcare providers in early recognition of would-be extremists, noting that "susceptible (including perhaps mentally unstable) individuals can quickly become radicalised and rapidly move from intent to action".
More here:

Sorry, but this is simply not on unless the access is agreed to by a judge who issues a specific warrant. If there is real need for the information then obtaining a warrant will not be an issue, but unless a judge can be persuaded the confidentiality of all clinical information should be preserved under pain of severe penalty for breach.

At present in NSW there is a reasonable barrier - i.e. a real need to know - to the sharing of health information - but laws vary at Commonwealth and different state levels. My strong preference is that there be a national, consistent and pretty tough regime in place. As far as I can see there is presently no reference to health information held by medical practices in the report but it seems that all hospital encounter records are fair game.
 
My 2 cents. The excuse of terrorism is causing just too much erosion of our personal freedoms and privacy IMVHO.

(In passing I note the article provoked 34 mostly very annoyed comments!)

David.

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