AuthorHalyna N. Perun; Michael Orr; Fannie Dimitriadis
Anecdotal evidence exists that flagrant abuses of patients’ privacy and breach-
es of confidentiality are not things of the past. These abuses were first brought
to light during the proceedings of a public inquiry, the Commission of Inquiry
into the Confidentiality of Health Information, and described in its three-vol-
ume report in September 1980, a quarter of a century ago. It is true that some
of them ended because of the glare of publicity associated with the inquiry, and
that institutional and administrative practices were introduced to prevent or
discourage others. Memories are short, however, and bad habits difficult to
suppress permanently. The need to implement many of the inquiry report’s
170 recommendations, though undeniable, did not result in comprehensive
legislation in Ontario until the Personal Health Information Protection Act came
into force on 1 November 2004.
A fundamental purpose of law is to attempt to reconcile conflicting inter-
ests that inevitably arise in society, and conflicts abound in the fields of priva-
cy and confidentiality, the importance of which, in a free society and in health
care, needs no elaboration here. The practical difficulty in effecting this recon-
ciliation is probably the chief reason for the failure of the earlier attempts to
enact legislation that was obviously highly desirable. At the several conferences
and symposiums convened over the years to consider the announced immi-
nence of remedial legislation, all speakers representing the many affected
interests were unanimous in the view that privacy and confidentiality were
essential values that must be protected but many, if not most, of them assert-
ed a “right to know” that required an exception to be made in their cases. If all
of these claimed exceptions were legislated, the result would be, not a protec-

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT