Privacy, Surveillance, and Autonomy
We all like at least some privacy, and there isn’t much dispute that privacy in health and medical information matters. This is for a variety reasons. One is that support for privacy protections is strong; public opinion research consistently indicates that persons care deeply about health privacy. Another is that health privacy has significant historical roots, dating back to the provisions for physician-patient confidentiality in the Hippocratic Oath. The popular appeal and historical protections for health privacy make sense because privacy implicates important interests. Information about a person’s health can be used to deny that person employment, financial, or other opportunities; and learning about a person’s medical condition may lead others to define or view that person disproportionately in light of that condition. Accordingly, there are a variety of legal protections for health information privacy. In the U.S., these include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, and the Common Rule covering certain human subjects research.