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Cannot access medical records through RTI: information panel

Atul Patankar

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Atul Patankar

As reported by Krishnadas Rajagopal online at indianexpress.com on Aug 17, 2009


New Delhi : The Central Information Commission (CIC) recently denied a man access to information about his fiancée’s health and the treatment she had undergone at a psychiatric centre, claiming that a patient-doctor relationship was based on trust, which could not be breached. Dipchand Chavanriya, a resident of Ghaziabad, had filed a Right to Information (RTI) petition seeking access to the medical records of his fiancée, Jyoti, from the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Science in Shahdara here.


The CIC, the apex transparency panel in the country, however, denied the information to Chavanriya claiming that the RTI cannot act as a “detective” to unearth the medical history of a person.

Chavanriya had stated in his application on January 2009 that Jyoti’s medical problem and treatment at the psychiatric centre would affect his “personal life” and therefore it was essential that he be provided with the same.


His six questions to the Public Information Officer (PIO) D K Chakravorty included ones on the treatment, the “physical problem”, length of treatment and the last date of medical consultation at the hospital.


The PIO, however, claimed exemption citing “fiduciary” (bond of trust) relationship between the doctor and the patient, following which he appealed to the CIC.


Following this, the Commission dismissed Chavanriya’s appeal on the ground that “it is undeniable that the relationship between a patient and a doctor is a fiduciary relationship hence the exemption appears to have been applied correctly”.


“A person cannot use RTI to breach the physician-patient bond of trust for his own personal need. But we (CIC) would consider if the information seeker has applied in public good, for example, if he suspects if the other person has a communicable disease, which will harm the public at large,” Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi told Newsline on Tuesday.


“The relationship between a confessor-confessee, lawyer-client, doctor-patient, chartered accountant-client is fiduciary (bond of trust) and exempted from disclosure under the RTI. It is information given by persons placed in an inferior position to another in a superior state, the latter thus has a duty to keep the information confidential,” Gandhi said.


Hearing the case, Commissioner Gandhi observed: “The appellant claims the information is important since it affects his personal life. He does not dispute the claim of fiduciary relationship but feels that since it is important for him personally the information should be provided.


“A personal motive (however) is not enough to access information exchanged in trust. The applicant has to prove that such information would serve the larger public interest,” Gandhi said. `


Source: Cannot access medical records through RTI: information panel

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There was a Supreme Court ruling some time back that a patient has the right to access all his medical records.

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It goes without saying that the grounds of fiduciary relationship can be used to deny information only to people who are outsiders to the relationship. It cannot be used to deny records related to one's own self.

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