No Snooping

  • 15 Aug 2016
The Medical Board of Australia v S [2016] QCAT 158
Key Points
  • Medical records not to be accessed without “reasonable justification”.
  • A breach of privacy and confidentiality may lead to disciplinary action against a health practitioner.
  • Audits are conducted on access to electronic medical records and significant penalties can apply if found to have accessed medical records when there is no clinical justification for doing so.


A doctor’s registration was suspended for 6 months for accessing his dying estranged wife’s electronic medical records without reasonable justification and seeking information from her oncologist without her authority. He was also found to have knowingly made and failed to correct false submissions to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. Dr S argued the board’s case was founded on “incomplete, demonstrably unreliable hearsay”, claiming he had maintained contact with his wife and she’d asked him to contact the other doctor to find out the latest information about her treatment.

After hearing the evidence, the Queensland Civil & Administrative Tribunal found that Dr S abused his position of trust and confidence as a doctor and fell short of the standard of conduct that might reasonably be expected of him by the public or his professional peers, stating “he breached his professional code of conduct by failing to maintain professional boundaries in respecting and protecting SLC’s privacy and her right to confidentiality.”

Dr S’s medical registration was suspended for six months and he was ordered to complete course on ethical decision making and patient confidentiality.

This decision followed the news that more than twenty health professionals in South Australia had been caught inappropriately looking at patients’ medical records. At least five of the staff have since had their employment terminated or have disciplined.

Audits are conducted on access to electronic medical records and significant penalties can apply if you are found to have accessed medical records when there is no clinical justification for doing so.

Post by Claudine Watson-Kyme 

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