Health Record Snooping Case Prosecuted in Goderich

    Apr 11, 2017

    A Masters of Social Work student on an educational placement in Central Huron has been levied the highest fine to date for a health privacy breach in Canada. The student has been fined $20,000 and a $5,000 victim surcharge for accessing personal health information without authorization. The student pled guilty to willfully accessing the personal health information of five individuals. As part of her plea, she agreed that she snooped the personal health information of 139 people without authorization in 2014 and 2015.

    In March 2015, the office of the Information Privacy Commissioner of Ontario (IPC) learned the student had been snooping the records of family, friends, local politicians, clinic staff, and others. After conducting an investigation, the IPC forwarded the matter to the Ontario attorney general.

    The case marks the fourth conviction under the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA).

    In a statement, Commissioner Brian Beamish said, “Health care professionals need to know that this kind of behaviour, whether it’s snooping out of curiosity or for personal gain, is completely unacceptable and has serious consequences. This judgement sends a message through Ontario’s health care system that unauthorized access will not be tolerated. Further, there is an obligation to ensure that proper safeguards are in place to prevent this kind of activity. Patient privacy is vital if Ontarians are to have confidence in their health care system.”

    The Justice of the Peace who sentenced the student later issued the following statement:

    “Overall, the victim impact statements reveal a lack of trust and a sense of reluctance to share information with future health care providers. I believe this is a truly significant factor, given that we all must believe that when we go to the doctor for our physical illnesses and our mental health illnesses, that we will be able to trust our own health care practitioners and their team and that what we tell them will be respected and held in confidence so we receive the treatment and care we deserve.”



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