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For Immediate Release
July 15, 1999

Contact: Sue Blevins
(202) 429-6610

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," warns Blevins.

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' medical privacy.

"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 their consent."

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.

Can such vague legislation really guarantee that researchers won't be able to trace back patients' personal information -- including genetic and cellular information?
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