Page 4403 - Week 14 - Tuesday, 22 November 2005

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might have been released to an insurance company. This bill regulates that so that relevant sections can be released for the convenience and use of all.

It also allows better access to records by the families of deceased persons, especially when a person dies intestate. That obviously causes a great deal of angst. Often survivors are not able to access a hospital record or a doctor’s records. In some cases they can have absolutely no knowledge of the treatment of a loved one or relative over a period of time. They may not have been aware of an illness. Sometimes this comes as a shock. It is reasonable, within the confines of the bill, to allow those people access to these records.

Something that pleases me is the improved access for carers. Currently carers cannot gain access to the records of the person they care for. This bill defines the circumstances in which a carer can access records. That can only lead to better outcomes for the person being cared for and, in particular, for the carer, who may have the care of a loved one just dropped on them or who may have taken up the task of caring for someone without really understanding the full implications of the condition that the person is suffering from. The doctor cannot disclose medical records or detail any complications that might occur without the permission of the person who is being cared for, and in some cases that person is not capable of giving that permission. I think that carers will find this a particularly useful revision of this bill.

I am assured that the bill does comply with the national health privacy code, which of course it should. With those words, the opposition will be supporting this bill.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.04): I will be supporting this bill. The point of this amending bill is to build some flexibility into health records protection so that reasonable decisions can be made regarding health information when it is consistent with the patient’s preference, where there are issues of safety at stake and when, without compromising privacy, better research can be conducted.

In analysing this bill, we considered the impact of these amendments on a range of people. I am aware that it was developed in consultation with a number of groups, including the law society and health care consumers, and that is reflected in the care with which some of the key provisions have been drafted. It was a reminder that there is a case to be made for the explanatory statements of bills to include a list of groups consulted in their development. I trust that when my legislation amendment bill is debated, the government will see fit to support that element of it.

One of the key provisions in this bill is the new amendment to the sixth principle of the act, which allows doctors and other treating health professionals to disclose personal health information where previously that was not permitted. There are often occasions when such disclosure would benefit the patient or health service consumer in terms of making them easier to look after when presumably they are in a condition where they cannot themselves communicate the information.

The patients’ rights are protected by the limitation that the disclosure is made for compassionate reasons, that it would reasonably be expected by them and is not contrary to any wishes previously expressed by them. This provision is clearly a benefit to the patient or consumer and their carers, but it is also of clear benefit to health professions who, without a doubt, are trapped at present in an invidious position. Similar protections

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