Too much information?BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g1319 (Published 05 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1319
- Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist, London
“Better information means better care,” says a leaflet put through the front door of England’s 22 million households. As a general proposition this is unexceptionable, even trite: nobody’s going to argue that ignorance is bliss. And most people, when the proposition is put to them, agree that the sharing of medical records in an anonymised form can produce results that justify the small risks of disclosure of an individual’s personal data.
There is, however, a big difference between the ideal of informed consent and a paternalistic pat on the head. The leaflet, which at first glance looks like another piece of junk mail, is vague about who owns this information, who wants to use it, and who the leaflet comes from. It explains that people can opt out but doesn’t explain clearly how and doesn’t include a form to make the process easier. It makes no mention at all of the Information Commissioner’s Office, charged with protecting personal information from disclosure, an omission likely to raise eyebrows. While it is meant to reassure, the actual message it conveys is, “We know best.”
Even if that were …