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Alerting genetic relatives to a risk of serious inherited disease without a patient’s consent

Graeme K Suthers, Elizabeth A McCusker and Samantha A Wake
Med J Aust 2011; 194 (8): 385-386.

Guidelines for private sector practitioners implementing the new provisions in the Privacy Act

Every health care practitioner must respect confidentiality. Patients reasonably expect that private information offered or identified during an episode of care will not be divulged without their consent. The fundamental importance of confidentiality finds formal expression in the National Privacy Principles. Practitioners in the private sector must comply with the National Privacy Principles, which are embodied in the Privacy Act 1988 (Cwlth).1 Public sector employees are obliged to comply with the relevant legislation in each jurisdiction.

  • Graeme K Suthers1,2
  • Elizabeth A McCusker3
  • Samantha A Wake4,5

  • 1 SA Clinical Genetics Service, SA Pathology, Women’s & Children’s Hospital, Adelaide, SA.
  • 2 Department of Paediatrics, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA.
  • 3 Huntington Disease Service, Department of Neurology, Westmead Hospital, Sydney, NSW.
  • 4 Genetic Health Services Victoria, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 5 Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC.


Competing interests:

We were on the NHMRC committee that drafted the guidelines for practitioners about using the provisions of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cwlth) to disclose genetic information without consent, and received travel support from the NHMRC to attend committee meetings; Samantha Wake also received a sitting fee.

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