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Health Freedom Watch
June 2008


Standing Strong for Health-Privacy Rights
By Sue A. Blevins

While watching (via webcast) Deborah Peel, a psychiatrist and founder & chair of the Austin, Texas-based Patient Privacy Rights, testify June 4 before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, I was struck by how one member of the subcommittee seemed to equate devotion to privacy with “harsh rhetoric.”

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) denounced statements on the Patient Privacy Rights website and said to Dr. Peel, “If we can work through this without the harsh rhetoric, we will get a bill that will save lives.”  Rogers was referring to a health IT (information technology) bill that would foster the exchange of electronic health data. Dr. Peel told the subcommittee, “It is fairly well known that I am passionate—to say the least—about privacy.  And the reason for that is that I learned about privacy from my patients. As a practicing physician in the field of psychiatry I know that effective treatment depends upon the trust established between a doctor and a patient…. So while I may be passionate, [the] idea that your most embarrassing conditions should stay private, or that information about you should be in your control, is not a radical concept.”

She pointed out that the federal government has never officially defined the term “privacy” with respect to the HIPAA regulations.  “HHS recently spent $500,000 on a project to develop definitions for electronic health systems. They defined RHIOs [Regional Health Information Organizations], they defined HIEs [Health Information Exchanges], they defined lots of things, but they still have not defined privacy,” Dr. Peel emphasized.  Privacy means control over personal information, she said, noting that “if you have no control, you have no privacy.”  

It’s understandable that some members of Congress would become frustrated with health-privacy advocates—they are slowing down passage of an IT bill.  But it’s only fair to point out that there’s nothing harsh about telling the public the truth about how the HIPAA rule does not offer patients control over their medical information.  And that is what Dr. Peel and other dedicated health-privacy advocates are doing—standing strong for health-privacy rights.

Sue A. Blevins is founder and president of the Institute for Health Freedom.

Source: Patient Privacy Rights:

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Minn. Governor Protects Genetic-Privacy Rights;
Vetoes “DNA Warehouse” Bill

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty recently vetoed a bill (S.F. 3138) that would have eliminated existing parental-consent requirements for government storage, use and dissemination of newborn blood and DNA, according to Citizens’ Council on Health Care (CCHC). “Governor Pawlenty chose to protect the privacy rights, human rights and DNA property rights of all individuals, starting at birth,” stated CCHC president Twila Brase. 

CCHC, a strong supporter of patient privacy and genetic-ownership rights, led the opposition to the bill.  “By vetoing Senate File 3138 [on May 20], the Governor kept the strong legal protections of the state genetic privacy law in effect for all citizens, including the 780,000 children whose DNA has already been warehoused without legal authority or parental consent,” Brase said.

In a letter to the president of the state senate, Pawlenty said, “I understand the [Health] Department’s desire to collect and use blood samples for newborn screening purposes using an opt-out approach.  However, I believe written informed consent should be obtained for the long-term storage or use of the blood samples for non-screening research” (Emphasis added).   He added, “Government handling and storage of genetic information is a serious matter.  Removing the requirement for express authorization from parents regarding the long-term storage and potential future uses of genetic samples, especially when such storage and use is not related to newborn screening, is concerning.” 

On behalf of CCHC and the many Minnesotans who spoke out against the bill, Brase “wholeheartedly thank[ed] Governor Pawlenty for his decision to protect the genetic privacy rights and informed consent rights of all citizens." 


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Americans Believe Wounded Iraq War Veterans Are Not Receiving High Quality Medical Care When They Return to the U.S.

Families With Military or Veteran Connection Also Hold Critical View; McCain Seen in Poll as Best Candidate on Issue

As part of the ongoing poll series, Debating Health: Election 2008, a recent survey by the Harvard Opinion Research Program at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Harris Interactive® finds that a majority of Americans (62%) believe that wounded Iraq war veterans do not receive high quality care in military and Veterans' Administration (VA) hospitals once they return to the U.S. Similar majorities feel that veterans requiring rehabilitation care and mental health care do not receive high quality care (62% and 65% respectively). This survey follows a number of recent news stories on the quality of health care provided to Iraq war veterans. 

Americans who have a close family member who is serving or has served in the military are just as likely as Americans with no military connection to say that wounded Iraq veterans do not receive high quality care in military and VA hospitals (64% versus 59%). These Americans with a military connection are slightly more likely than other Americans to say Iraq veterans do not receive high quality rehabilitation (65% versus 57%) and mental health care (68% versus 61%).  

The quality of medical care that wounded soldiers receive on the front lines in Iraq has gotten more favorable news coverage than the care that war veterans receive in the U.S. Many reports have noted that wounded soldiers who would not have survived their injuries in previous wars are surviving today due to the high quality medical care they receive in Iraq. Although more Americans feel that wounded soldiers get high quality care on the front lines in Iraq (47%) than they do in military hospitals once they return to the U.S. (31%), a nearly equal percentage (43%) feel they do not get high quality care on the front lines. Ten percent said they do not know.  

A majority (60%) of Americans feel that the health care wounded Iraq war veterans receive in military and VA hospitals is better (10%) or the same (50%) compared to what they would receive in other major U.S. hospitals. Just over one-third (36%) feel the care is worse. Americans with a family member who is serving or has served in the military have a somewhat more negative opinion of military and VA hospitals (41% believe care is worse compared to 29% of other Americans).  

Compared to [both Barack Obama and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton], more Americans feel that John McCain will make sure that wounded veterans returning from Iraq receive high quality health services. Fifty-three percent say McCain would be more likely to do this while 35% say Democrat Barack Obama would...."Providing quality health care for our soldiers in harm’s way here and abroad is an emotional issue for many Americans,” said Humphrey Taylor, Chairman of The Harris Poll®.

“The high level of dissatisfaction with the health care services provided to Iraq veterans could become a significant issue in the presidential election,” said Robert J. Blendon, Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health. “This issue could be particularly significant for voters who have a family connection to the military.”


This survey is part of the series, Debating Health: Election 2008. The series focuses on current health issues in the presidential campaign. The survey design team includes Professor Robert Blendon, Tami Buhr, John Benson and Kathleen Weldon of the Harvard School of Public Health; and Humphrey Taylor, Scott Hawkins and Justin Greeves of Harris Interactive.

This survey was conducted by telephone within the United States among a nationwide cross section of adults aged 18 and over. The survey was conducted April 30 through May 4, 2008 among a representative sample of 1007 respondents. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, number of adults in the household, size of place (urbanicity) and number of phone lines in the household were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population.

All sample surveys and polls are subject to multiple sources of error including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. The sampling error for the poll is +/- 3.0% in 95 out of 100 cases for results based on the entire sample. For results based on a smaller subset, the sampling error is somewhat larger.

Source: Press release (reprinted in its entirety) from the Harvard School of Public Health titled “Americans Believe Wounded Iraq War Veterans Are Not Receiving High Quality Medical Care When They Return to the U.S.,” May 25, 2008:

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Health Freedom Watch is published by the Insitute for Health Freedom. Editor: Sue Blevins; Assistant Editor: Deborah Grady. Copyright 2008 Institute for Health Freedom.