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Consent and confidentiality—where are the limits? An introduction
  1. P J Lachmann
  1. Correspondence to:
 Peter Lachmann, Centre for Veterinary Science, Madingley Road Cambridge CB3 0ES, UK;

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Introduction to, and overview of, the contents of the Symposium on consent and confidentiality

The papers in this symposium are based on a meeting held by the Academy of Medical Sciences in London on 12 February 2002. The decision to hold this meeting, and to explore in detail these important and contentious issues, arose from a number of concerns that the Academy felt about what may reasonably be called “impediments to medical research”.

These include:

  • The regulations arising from the implementation of the European data protection directive and their effect on the gathering and holding of data needed for disease surveillance as well as for research. Phil Boyd, in his paper, presents the views and the work of the Information Commission, the responsible UK body in this area.

  • The “Source Informatics” case where the Department of Health requested a judicial review on the use, by this company, of anonymised prescribing data from general practitioner (GP) records for informing the pharmaceutical industry about patterns of drug use. Mr Justice Latham ruled that the use of even this anonymised data for commercial purposes could be a breach of patients' rights to confidentiality. The Court of Appeal, however, emphatically reversed his decision and, no further appeal having been made to the House of Lords, the law of the land is now clear that there is no breach of confidentiality in the use of anonymised data. It did seem to us, …

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