I would like to express my concerns over two recent developments regarding the keeping of medical records.
This morning I read two consecutive articles in the College Connector, [formerly the College Quarterly]. The first article is entitled “Maintaining Gamete Donor Records” [College Connector 2013;1:12] and the second is entitled “Record Retention 16 Years” [College Connector 2013;1:13].
The first article deals with the recent dismissal by the Supreme Court of Canada of Ms Olivia Pratten’s appeal from the 27 November 2012 Order of the BC Court of Appeal.
For those who don’t know about the case, Ms Patten is a woman who was conceived in the early 1980s by the aid of a gamete (sperm) donor. When Ms Pratten later sought to learn the identity of her biological father, she eventually was told the records detailing that information had been destroyed. She thought this was wrong and brought a suit against the BC Attorney General and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC.
Initially the BC Supreme Court agreed with her. This judgment was then appealed to the BC Court of Appeal and the initial judgment was overturned. Ms Pratten then asked that the Supreme Court of Canada hear her case. As noted, her appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was dismissed, which means that Ms Pratten has lost her case for good, despite the obvious divided legal opinions expressed during the progress of her case. The article in the College Connector explicitly states: “College registrants are no longer required to permanently preserve gamete donor records.” For a more complete look at her situation, I would suggest the reader do a Google search on her name.
The second article informed me that, thanks to the recently passed Limitation Act, College registrants are now expected to retain medical records for a minimum period of 16 years from the date of last entry or from the age of majority, whichever is later, except as otherwise required by law.
What I thought as I read the two articles was that there is a logical disconnect between the two legal actions.
As I understand the law as it stands today, if I was a physician who arranged for a donor sample of a gamete that resulted in the conception and birth of a child in 1995, I can destroy any records that might reveal to that child the identity or medical history of his or her biological parent. But, if I saw that same child once in 1996, when he or she was 1 year old, and did a screening urine to rule out a UTI as the cause of his or her fever, I must keep that urine culture result until 16 years from the time of the child reaching the age of majority. Which, if my rusty math skills are correct, would be until 1995 plus 19 plus 16, or 2030.
Does this conclusion strike anyone else out there as being not quite right? Does anyone else think, besides me and some of the judges involved in deciding Ms Pratten’s case, that information about one’s biological parent is more important than a urine test result?
—H. Douglas Cooper, MD
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