Whoa. PTI reports:
The provisions of Medical Council of India to protect confidentiality in patients’ records cannot override statutes of Right to Information Act, Central Information Commission has held.
Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu held that after RTI Act has come into being, any rules which are not in conformity with the disclosure norms will be overridden by the transparency law.
He said the decision to disclose records of a patient will be taken keeping in mind the provisions of the Right to Information Act.
This seems to be one of those cases where public safety might trump confidentiality provisions, but framing this as right to information trumping privacy concerns me. The ruling was made in the context of a case where a wife demanded her husband’s mental health records:
“The confidentiality required to be maintained in the medical records of a patient including a convict considering the regulations framed by the Medical Council of India cannot override the provisions of the Right to Information Act,” Acharyulu said while ordering disclosure of records of mental health of a person whose wife had demanded it.
It seems the wife was being beaten by the husband and had requested his records from the facility treating him, who had declined, citing confidentiality.
But does her situation really justify breaching his confidentiality by turning over his records? In India, is there a duty to warn or duty to protect that the facility could have used to disclose information to her if they felt she was at imminent risk of violence? And if they didn’t feel that there was anything they could disclose that would help her protect herself, should they have been required to disclose?
I find this case – and the broadness of the ruling – to be very concerning. I hope that mental health and other medical associations in India advocate to get this ruling overturned or at least seriously circumcised and the definition of “larger public interest” more clearly and narrowly defined.