JUDGE'S RULING: MINNESOTA CITIZENS HAVE NO RIGHT TO MEDICAL PRIVACY

St. Paul, Minnesota - The medical information of citizens is public property, according to an administrative law judge's ruling published today. ALJ Allan W. Klein ruled in favor of the Minnesota Department of Health's plan to collect patient-identifiable medical information without patient consent. The department has statutory authority to move forward with collecting private medical data without patient consent.

"We're disappointed that the ruling did not acknowledge the right of citizens to control their own personal health information," said Twila Brase, president of Citizens' Council on Health Care (CCHC), which forced the department to hold a hearing on the proposed rule.

CCHC's concerns include:

  • Centralization of Data. Once the data is collected and available in a central location, many organizations and corporations may ask the legislature for access.

     

  • Limited Access to Health Care Services. The private medical data of individuals may be used to create studies that push public policy toward implicit and explicit health care rationing strategies.

     

  • Patient Privacy redefined. Privacy will not longer be defined as between doctors and patients, and those to whom the patient gives consent. Public good has superceded patient consent.

The judge ended the 38-page report on the ruling by noting that citizen concerns are many, but "Striking an appropriate balance between personal privacy and healthcare research is ultimately the task of the legislature."

"Whenever anyone talks about balancing privacy against research, privacy always loses. There is no half-loaf of privacy. You either have it or you don't. This ruling assures the public that they will not have privacy unless the legislature acts to change the law and eliminate the rule," explains Brase.

"The public understands that privacy begins in the doctor's office, not the cubicles of government officials," she added.

Although the judge approved the rule, one change must be made. Noting CCHC's assertion that the department had not met the statutory requirement that it be impossible to identify individuals when releasing summary data, the judge required that the word "identifier" be better defined.Identifiers are those data elements that the department will not include in their released reports.

"Although we are pleased that the judge recognized one of our concerns, we remain disappointed that the ruling appeared to follow the department's thinking, rather than the public's concerns," said Brase.

Judge Klein finalized the report by saying "Those people who just fundamentally disagree with the legislature's choice must address their arguments to the legislature."

"Clearly, it will require the legislature to change the law before the public's concerns are met. To help them understand the concerns of their constituents, we plan to share with the legislature our recent report on the public's response to the data rule," said Brase.

The CCHC report can be found at their web site here.

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CCHC is an independent non-profit free-market health care policy organization located in St. Paul, Minnesota
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Citizens' Council on Health Care
1954 University Avenue West, Suite 8, St. Paul, MN 55104
Phone: 651.646.8935 / Fax: 651.646.0100, e-mail

   

Media Contact:

Twila Brase, President
Phone: 651-646-8935 (office)
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