Expecting Healthcare Providers to Inform on Patients

During the 1990s, an anti-immigration ballot initiative in California (United States) included a requirement that hospitals report undocumented immigrant patients to a government agency.

Voters passed the initiative, but as far as I know a judge blocked enforcement of the hospital reporting requirement.

The damage may have been done, though.  Trust isn’t always easy to restore.

Every person should be able to get healthcare without intimidation.  There are exceptions, though.  In California, certain types of illnesses and injuries must be reported, and there are valid debates on whether more harm or less is caused when treatment for a sexually transmitted infection or a family violence-related injury isn’t kept completely confidential.

Do any of us have the answer?  Policy doesn’t address the human condition, regardless of how much effort (some of it politically motivated) is exerted by policy makers.

Today, The Guardian posted a news article on a change in National Health Service (NHS) reporting requirements when a patient is not a citizen of the United Kingdom.  Although information on fewer patients will be disclosed now, the NHS will still be expected to share data with the Home Office about some patients who are being considered for deportation.

Although this is progress, there should be concerns.  An ill person who is still a candidate for data sharing will hesitate to seek treatment, and if that person’s illness is contagious and severe then the public health is at risk.  On the other hand, the patient whose situation is addressed in this case may pose a threat of violence to others.  The Home Office has good reason to want to keep track of some people.

Readers are invited to express their views on this blog page and on the social media pages where this post is shared.  Here’s a link to the Guardian piece by Denis Campbell:



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