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20 Pages

CONFIDENTIALITY, ACCESS TO HEALTH RECORDS AND THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 1998

In an interview with The Times newspaper in 1995, the American actor Robert Redford expressed nostalgia for the days when there was ‘less information’. While his compatriot Bill Gates, the computer tycoon, might not share that view, few would disagree that advances in electronic communications over the last decade have brought with them-with a speed and to an extent perhaps not paralleled since the Renaissance-a huge increase in the range and volume of information to which we are now subjected. Just as the invention and spread of the printed word in the 15th century prompted challenges to many aspects of European culture, it is no exaggeration to say that modern society’s development of the internet, the satellite and the mobile telephone as alternatives to traditional forms of communication presents important new legal and ethical issues which we may not yet be ready to resolve. Of these, perhaps the most important is that of privacy; how can we control access to and disclosure of the vast amount of confidential information now being generated and stored?