Vol.16 Issue 1 (2020)

Sharing of children’s health data by health professionals and parents – a consideration of legal duties

Dr. Carolyn Johnston

Children’s health data such as blood pressure, X-rays and written notes of medical examinations are produced in a clinical setting through health professionals’ interaction with their minor patients. Health care practitioners owe legal and professional obligations not to disclose such information without consent or other legally recognised authorisation. With the increasing advent of data generated by patients themselves from wearable devices such as continuous glucose monitors and health apps, the patient, or parents, have initial control of the data and decide who to share it with. Where wearable devices have been provided to parents by the child’s health care provider to monitor the child’s health condition, there is an expectation that parents will share that information with the healthcare practitioner, who owes legal and professional duties to maintain the confidentiality of such data. Naturally, parents share information about their children with family and friends and increasingly on social media networks. They may also choose to share their children’s health data on closed social media sites in order to gain support from members of that group for management of their children’s health condition.
This paper identifies obligations of privacy and confidentiality owed by healthcare professionals in Australia and India in respect of children’s health data. I contrast how parents freely share information about their children on social media sites —‘sharenting’ —and address the adequacy of protections against future harms arising from dissemination of children’s health data and suggest the limits of appropriate sharing.

Author

Senior Research Fellow, Law and Biotechnology, at the University of Melbourne.