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For Immediate Release:
November 22, 2004

Government Tells Families to Discuss/Document
Health History on Thanksgiving

(Washington, D.C.)—The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has declared this Thanksgiving the first annual "National Family History Day." HHS is encouraging American families to discuss and document medical histories during Thanksgiving. Citizens also are being told to share their family's health data with their doctors.

"But a lot of people do not realize what happens with personal family information once it's out of their hands. Federal law says that after personal family information is shared with health-care providers, the data can be released to many others (such as insurance companies and public-health officials) without families' consent," says Sue A. Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom. "Moreover, in most instances citizens don't have a right to find out to whom their family health information was released."

With the passage of the so-called federal medical privacy rule, Americans lost their long-standing right to health privacy. That rule eliminated individuals' right to give or withhold consent before their medical information—including genetic information—is shared with many others. "When the misnamed federal medical 'privacy' rule came in the door, out went true health privacy," stresses Blevins.

"A great number of people remain extremely concerned about the lack of medical privacy. In fact, more than 5,000 citizens have filed complaints with the federal government alleging breaches of health privacy," Blevins points out.

"Regardless of the lack of true medical privacy, it is not the federal government's role to tell families how to spend their Thanksgiving holiday," Blevins says.

Federal Information about the First Annual "National Family History Day"

For information about health privacy issues visit IHF's web site section on health privacy:

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