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News Release
For Immediate Release: September 26, 2000

Gallup Survey Finds Americans' Concern
About Medical Privacy Runs Deep

Overwhelming Majority Don't Want Third Parties Seeing
Their Medical Records Without Their Permission

(Washington, D.C.) -- An overwhelming majority of Americans do not want the government or other third parties to have access to their medical records--including genetic information--without their permission. This deep concern about the confidentiality of their medical affairs was revealed in a new Gallup survey commissioned by the Institute for Health Freedom. The results were released at a news conference today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Key findings include:

  • 78 percent feel it is very important that their medical records be kept confidential.
  • 93 percent say that medical and government researchers should not be allowed to study an individual's genetic information unless they first obtain his or her consent.
  • 92 percent oppose allowing government agencies to see their medical records without their permission; 82 percent object to insurance companies gaining access without permission; and 67 percent oppose researchers seeing their medical records without the patient's permission.
  • 91 percent oppose a federal requirement to assign everyone a medical identification number, similar to a Social Security number, to create a national medical database.

"The Gallup survey results show that individuals clearly do not want government agencies or private groups accessing their medical information without their permission," said Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom. "Any new law or regulation--whether federal or state--that strips Americans of their right to determine who sees their medical records is going against the will of the majority of citizens. Consent has always been viewed as a fundamental human right and the Gallup poll confirms that Americans strongly support that right when it comes to determining who can access their medical and genetic information," Blevins stressed.

Boise State University professor Charlotte Twight, who has written extensively about medical- privacy legislation, commented on the survey results: "There no longer is any doubt that the public is vitally concerned about medical privacy; the challenge now is how to make policymakers respect the public's clearly expressed views."

The Gallup survey, titled "Public Attitudes Toward Medical Privacy," was conducted by telephone with 1,000 adults nationwide between August 11 and August 26, 2000. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent. The survey report can be viewed in its entirety at the Institute for Health Freedom's Web site (http://www.forhealthfreedom.org/Gallupsurvey).

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