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eHealth bill a threat to privacy, say health and rights groups

Groups want bill redrafted with right of patient consent enshrined

A number of BC health and civil liberties organizations say the province’s eHealth bill is a threat to personal freedoms and health information privacy.

Bill 24 would allow the provincial government to create massive electronic databanks of citizens’ personal health information.

And those databanks will be talking electronically to other
government databanks, says the BC Persons With AIDS Society chair Glyn Townson.

That means, for example, your health data could be shared with officials looking at your EI data. Bill 24 is due to receive its second reading in the Legislature in the next two weeks.

Townson says without any privacy protections, interlinked government databases will allow unsecured access to medical information.

He says this should concern everyone, but he singles out people with HIV/AIDS, people using birth control and women getting abortions.

The bill’s critics say public consultations on the bill have not
produced meaningful results.

They say the government’s failure to enshrine meaningful citizen control over medical information makes the government’s assurances of privacy meaningless.

Townson says he’s been working with committees on the legislation but says the government’s lack of consideration for people’s privacy has “sideswiped” those groups.

“I am dismayed, disappointed and somewhat angry,” says Townson, who estimates he’s spent 40 per cent of his recent time working with BCPWA working on the law.

Darrell Evans of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy
Association says Bill 24 opens the door to massive security breaches.

“They are happening all the time,” he says. “We’re talking drug histories, genetic information, medical test results, you name it.

“And once your personal information gets out or on the internet, it’s there forever, beyond anyone’s control.”

The groups want Bill 24 to be redrafted with the right of patient consent and control enshrined, with only strictly limited exceptions for emergencies and audits.

Further, they say, that sensitive health information should never leave Canada without express consent.