Privacy becomes core healthcare issue

Updated: 2012-03-15 07:44

By Shi Yingying (China Daily)

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Ethical reasons

Lu Hongzhou argued that cases such as Du's and the one described by Liu are rare, and that, a doctor, professional ethics prevent him from leaking personal information about patients.

"It's true there's no established punishment to prevent doctors from disclosing private data, just like there's no policy about giving compensation to doctors who accidentally contract HIV at the operating table," said the executive director of Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center.

"I'm for the real-name policy, even for preliminary screening," he said, explaining: "The reason is simple from the doctor's viewpoint: Some patients may get cold feet when facing confirmation and, if they provide false details, we would have problems contacting them. We couldn't offer them treatment or counseling."

According to the Communicable Disease Prevention Act, local CDCs are required to provide the personal data of patients who test positive for any of the 39 infectious illnesses listed. This includes HIV.

"By data, it means name, address, ID number and work place," Lu said. "Why do we record this? Well, because the situation will get out of control if we lose track of the source of infection. Then, it will no longer be about someone's privacy, it will be a problem for society."

An average of 48,000 new HIV and AIDS cases are discovered every year in China, he said, while the number of people who died last year of AIDS-related illnesses was about 28,000. (The last data published online by the Ministry of Health put the second figure at just over 9,000.)

"These people died because we just didn't find them early enough," Lu added.

Wang Hongyi in Shanghai contributed to this story.

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