Release of health details 'could result |in a jail term'

national April 01, 2014 00:00


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THE NATIONAL Health Commis-sion Office (NHCO) has warned against the unethical public release of patients’ medical information.
If such a release – on social media, for example – proved damaging, it could be seen as a legal offence under the National Health Act. 
“The offence is punishable by a jail term of up to six months and a maximum fine of Bt10,000, or both,” NHCO secretary-general Amphon Jindawatthana said yesterday. 
“He said either the affected patients or their relatives could take legal action. 
He said if the release of information had subjected them to contempt, damage or hatred, the action could be punishable under defamation laws too. 
Amphon was speaking after pictures and information of patients had been circulated lately via social media such as Facebook. 
He reckoned that some exposure was made with good intentions – for example, a plea to raise financial assistance, and encourage blood donations for patients. 
He suggested that the release of information on patients be based on moral principles.
His advice to persons considering posting details of others’ health was: “Think first. If we were the patients, would we want the information to go public?” 
He said patients’ information should never be disclosed in any way that could cause them embarrassment or damage. 
“Pregnancy information, for example, should not be disclosed as in some occupations the damage can be huge,” Amphon said. 
He said when media covered important figures’ visits to patients at hospitals, media crews should not be allowed inside patients’ rooms. 
Amphon said medical workers should never do anything against patients’ interests, including the release of information.
“Keep in mind that patients have the right to decide whether their health information should be disclosed to others or not,” he said. 
Amphon also emphasised the need to develop secure patient-database systems. 
He said he trusted in the ethics of medical workers in general and felt there was a higher risk of information leaking from the system than through the deliberate disclosure by medical workers.