Monday, July 25, 2005

N.Y. Diabetes-Tracking Plan Draws Concern

I blogged a little while ago about a plan by the City of New York to collect personal information about diabetics in that city without the consent of the individual patients (see The Canadian Privacy Law Blog: City Officials Aim to Track How Diabetics Manage Illness). The plan is starting to attract more criticism, according to an article from the Associated Press, via Yahoo!:

N.Y. Diabetes-Tracking Plan Draws Concern - Yahoo! News

"... Diabetes is different, threatening no one but the people who have it.

"This isn't smallpox," said James Pyles, an attorney who represents health care groups concerned with medical privacy. "The state, or the city in this case, does not have a compelling interest in the health of an individual that overrides that individual's right to privacy."

Pyles praised the intent of the program, but said unless diabetics are asked for their consent, it would be "an outright violation of the constitutional right to privacy" for the government to obtain their identities.

The city's program wouldn't initially get consent to collect data, but would allow patients to opt out later. The database would also be tightly controlled, off limits to anyone but department staff, the patients and their doctors, health officials say.

Over time, doctors could receive letters, telling them whether their patients have been getting adequate care. People who skip checkups might get a note from their doctors, reminding them of the dangers of untreated diabetes.

The plan is akin to the surveillance system put in place in 1897 to fight tuberculosis. At first, doctors were outraged they had to report TB cases to the government, but it became a model after deaths plummeted....

UPDATE: You may not be surprised by the Wired News headline on this one: Wired News: Big Brother Wants to Be Diet Cop

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