For Immediate Release:
July 15, 1999
Medical Privacy Alert: Just Three Weeks to Act!
Will Congress protect Americans' right to medical
privacy? That is what people all across the country
want to know. The American public is fast awakening
to the fact that Congress has only until August 21 to
pass a law to protect medical privacy, but many people
haven't realized yet that Congress is scheduled to break
for more than a month-long recess on August 7.
"With its summer recess starting August 7, Congress
really has only three work weeks left to meet its mandate
for ensuring medical privacy," says Sue Blevins, president
of the Institute for Health Freedom. "The American people
should speak up well before August 7 about how important
it is for their medical information to be protected,"
What's the debate all about? For nearly three years,
congressional leaders have known they must pass a medical
privacy law by August 21, 1999, or the Clinton Administration
-- through the Department of Health and Human Services
-- will be granted the authority to regulate Americans'
"Current proposals claiming to make medical information
as 'non-identifiable as possible' is no guarantee for
true medical privacy," states Blevins. "Can such vague
legislation really guarantee that researchers won't
be able to trace back patients' personal information
-- including genetic and cellular information?" asks
Blevins. "With efforts to double the current $15 billion
federal budget for biomedical research, it is apparent
that scientists are going to need more data to complete
research projects," continues Blevins. "But government
has no right to allow researchers access to private-paying
patients' medical information without first obtaining
Just yesterday, the Clinton Administration announced
that its National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC)
completed a review of the ethical and medical considerations
associated with human stem cell research. The Administration
reports that it "recognizes that human stem cell technology's
potential medical benefits are compelling and worthy
of pursuit, so long as the research is conducted according
to the highest ethical standards. NIH is putting in
place guidelines and an oversight system that will ensure
that the cells are obtained in an ethically sound manner."
The Institute for Health Freedom urges Congress, the
Clinton Administration, and the NIH to maintain and
enforce strong informed consent principles. "Research
without consent is unethical," says Blevins.
For more information about medical privacy and the
August 21 deadline, visit the Institute for Health Freedom's
Web site at
Based in Washington, D.C., the Institute for Health
Freedom is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center
providing a forum for exchanging ideas about health
freedom. The Institute works with scholars and policy
experts in the areas of economics, health care, law,
philosophy, and the sciences to foster public debate.