The Obama administration aim’s to create, by sequestration, a federal patient data bank where medical records of individuals will be stored on federally funded Health Information Exchanges. At an estimated cost of 29 billion taxpayer dollars and risk to personal privacy, we must also ask at what impact to doctor-patient “confidentiality” and to the right to maintain personal privacy?
We propose that personal medical data should be treated as an aspect of personal identity. The Pontifical Academy for Life defines personal identity as follows: “the relation of an individual’sunrepeatability and essential core to his being a person (ontological level) and feeling that he is a person (psychological level).” The unique characteristics of personal identity are the unique characteristics of the person. Those characteristics can be observed, itemized and recorded, which is what’s done when personal medical data is secured. But the characteristics are still ofthe person. The handling of personal records will in a morally relevant sense be the handling of the person, not of course ontologically handling them, as if they were physically present to us, but conceptually handling them, in the way we “handle others” when we think or speak well or ill of them. So serious justice issues are at stake when dealing with the handling of personal medical information.
Patient identity, confidentiality in the doctor-patient relationship along with patient consent are placed in peril when taken outside the necessary operations of medicine. Arbitrary sequestering of patient records for non-therapeutic objectives are a violation to patient privacy and to the very nature of the doctor patient norm.