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AMA raises concerns about Privacy Act reforms

The AMA warns that proposed changes to privacy laws could severely impact medical research into childhood diseases.

An AMA submission about proposed reforms to the Privacy Act warns that some reforms would limit medical practitioners’ ability to diagnose patients and severely undermine medical research in Australia.

Some of the proposals raised in the 217-page Review Discussion Paper which the AMA is particularly concerned by could lead to:

  • doctors needing their patient’s permission every time they were to receive pathology or imaging results;
  • medical research into childhood diseases being severely limited (and in some cases prohibited);
  • the removal of the ability of persons under 16 to seek confidential advice about their sexual or mental health, including through services like headspace and KidsHelpLine; and
  • doctors being required to repeatedly give patients written notices reminding them that they are trying to positively influence their behaviour and decisions.

Although the AMA acknowledges that some of the proposed reforms to the Privacy Act are positive in their application to other aspects of society, such as social media, these reforms should not be applied to healthcare or research.

The AMA made a similar submission to an earlier issues paper on the review, in which the AMA explained that any changes to the Privacy Act should not impose additional privacy regulation on medical practices as they are already required to adhere to strong privacy positive practices.

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