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The complainant had a blood test at a hospital to establish whether she would be a suitable organ donor for a family member ( 'the recipient'). The result showed that she was a suitable match. The recipient was told by the physician of the complainant's suitability prior to the complainant being told. The complainant had not authorised the physician to disclose this information to the recipient and believed that the physician had breached rule 11 of the Health Information Privacy Code 1994 (the Code) which places limits on the disclosure of health information. The physician also gave the recipient a letter for the complainant containing the results of her blood tests to pass on to her. The complainant alleged that this was a breach of Rule 5 of the Code which is concerned with the security of health information.

The respondent hospital admitted the recipient had been told that the complainant was a suitable match but this information was only very general information. Details of her blood type and other medical information were not disclosed to the recipient. The hospital said the physician concerned believed that by agreeing to have the blood test the complainant had consented to the disclosure to the recipient of her suitability as a donor.

The physician said he had given the recipient the letter for the complainant because the recipient did not have the complainant's address with him.

Following discussions with my office the hospital apologised to the complainant for the considerable distress the disclosure caused her. It gave an assurance that, in future, physicians would not disclose the status of a potential organ donor to a recipient without the donor's written consent. The hospital also undertook to ensure that potential donors were contacted directly and not through the recipient.

The complainant accepted that the complaint was resolved by the hospital's apology and assurance. I discontinued my investigation.

October 1995

Storage and security - Health agency - Letter to organ donor about suitability given to organ recipient to deliver - New procedures implemented following investigation - Health Information Privacy Code 1994, rule 5

Disclosure of personal information - Health agency - Information about organ donor's suitability disclosed to organ recipient before donor notified - Authorisation to disclose assumed but not confirmed - New procedures implemented following investigation - Health Information Privacy Code 1994, rule 11