Bill blocks hospitals from releasing info - Metro US

Bill blocks hospitals from releasing info

An NDP bill would beef up privacy for injured people but could also block information from the public and media on high-profile incidents.

Legislation introduced yesterday would prevent the hospital status of a sick or injured person to be given out to anyone but family members. It could also profoundly affect how news stories are covered.

Take the recent case of Taylor Mitchell, the woman who died after being attacked by coyotes in Cape Breton.

Under the new legislation, once Mitchell was sent to hospital, officials would not be able to say whether she was in stable condition recovering, or in critical condition fighting for her life. Her death would also likely not have been revealed.

The legislation does allow for news of a patient dying to be told to “any person whom it is reasonable to inform.”

However health department officials confirmed this passage was designed for groups such as police and the medical examiner, not the media or public.

Fatality information does eventually become publicly available but it could be some time before the statistics are compiled.

The exception is if the injured party or a family member speaking on their behalf directly approve officials to inform the public.

Health minister Maureen MacDonald said yesterday the bill is not an attempt to hide information but rather to increase patient privacy.

“This legislation presumes in the interest of the patient,” MacDonald said.

“The information will not be released unless the patient consents, except to a family member.”

She said seven other provinces have similar laws.

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