Tuesday, November 09, 2004

French privacy law on your front page, and you might not have noticed

Confusion about the condition of PLO leader Yasser Arafat has been all over the media, with varying reports he is dead, dying, in a coma, on life support, off life support, dancing about, etc. One thing that has hardly been mentioned is that much of this confusion is because of France's data protection legislation. Under the French law, hosptials are not able to disclose information about patients without the consent of the individual concerned or their next of kin. In the case of Arafat, he is unable to consent so his wife, Suha Arafat, controls the flow of any information related to her husband, giving her an important and valuable bargaining chip in her dealings with the rest of the Palestinian leadership. See:

VOA News - Palestinian Officials Check Arafat's Condition:
"... It is still unclear what is wrong with Mr. Arafat. French privacy laws give his wife, Suha, the right to withhold medical information about his condition. But Mr. Shaath suggested his three-year detention in his West Bank office contributed to Mr. Arafat's illness...."

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