Two of the most important things in life, health and privacy, have become competing forces in debate around the government’s controversial My Health Record system.
The cost of opting out, those in support of the scheme argue, is doctors relying on assumptions while your life hangs in the balance.
Doctors, who not matter how skilled, can’t know your allergies, underlying conditions or your name if they’ve never treated you before.
Member for Farrer Sussan Ley worked on the system during her time as Health Minister.
She says the Australian system learned from successes and shortcomings of other nations’ electronic records.
Her view is My Health Record will save lives and allow physicians an insight into the person they are treating.
“Any emergency doctor will say it’s terrifying when they don’t know a patient’s history or allergies or what chronic condition could have caused the presentation,” she says.
“A My Health Record can save your life.”
But security and computing experts have warned that a breach of the system is a real and likely threat.
They warn it’s a threat which could result in life-ruining humiliation, identity theft and even lost job potential.
So, should we opt out and risk our lives?
Or stay in and risk our confidential medical information – both the banal and the humiliating – being accessed by hackers, new partners or potential employers?
In a perfect world free of stereotypes, the mass-release of medical histories could lead to a society free of the stigma that dogs so many physical and mental illnesses, as we realise everyone has a skeleton or two hidden in their medical records.
But we all know our world is far from perfect.
Health Minister Greg Hunt’s announcement of tightened privacy laws requiring law enforcement and other government agencies to obtain a court order to access the My Health Record system is a great step in the right direction.
But as Associate Professor Tanveer Zia fears a breach would disproportionately affect older Australians, and says more must be done to reassure the public their records are secure in a world of skilled hackers.
Because no one should have to choose between being a part of a life-saving system and their medical confidentiality.