MS v Sweden: ECHR 27 Aug 1997

Hudoc Sweden – communication, without the patient’s consent, of personal and confidential medical data by one public authority to another and lack of possibility for patient, prior to the measure, to challenge it before a court (Secrecy Act 1980 and Industrial Injury Insurance Act 1976)
The applicant having sustained an injury objected to disclosure of medical records to the Social Insurance Office to allow assessment of her compensation claim.
Held: The object of the disclosure was proper – to enable the office to determine whether the conditions for granting compensation had been met. It also recognised the ‘fundamental importance’ of protecting personal data, guaranteed by Article 8 of the Convention. It then ‘examine[d] whether, in the light of the case as a whole, the reasons adduced to justify the interference were relevant and sufficient and whether the measure was proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued.’ The court noted that the information was ‘communicated by one public institution to another in the context of an assessment of whether she satisfied the legal conditions for obtaining a benefit which she herself had requested.’ Under the relevant law it was a condition of imparting the information that the office had requested it, and the office was under a duty to treat it as confidential: ‘The Court considers that there were relevant and sufficient reasons for the communication of the applicant’s medical records by the clinic to the office and that the measure was not disproportionate to the legitimate aim pursued. Accordingly, it concludes that there has been no violation of the applicant’s right to respect for her private life, as guaranteed by Article 8 of the convention’ though ‘respecting the confidentiality of health data is a vital principle in the legal systems of all contracting parties to the Convention’.
20837/92, [1997] ECHR 49, [1999] 28 EHRR 313, 3 BHRC 248
Bailii, Bailii
Human Rights
Cited by:
CitedRegina (Kent Pharmaceuticals Ltd) v Serious Fraud Office CA 11-Nov-2004
In 2002 the SFO was investigating allegations that drug companies were selling generic drugs, including penicillin-based antibiotics and warfarin, to the National Health Service at artificially sustained prices. To further the investigation the SFO . .
CitedAxon, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Health and Another Admn 23-Jan-2006
A mother sought to challenge guidelines issued by the respondent which would allow doctors to protect the confidentiality of women under 16 who came to them for assistance even though the sexual activities they might engage in would be unlawful.
AppliedGeneral Dental Council v Savery and Others Admn 16-Nov-2011
Complaints had been made against certain dentists. Their patients object that they had not been asked about disclosure of their medical records to the tribunals hearing the fitness to practice cases.
Held: The GDC was under no obligation to . .
CitedRe C (A Child) FC 29-Sep-2015
There had been care proceedings as to C. The mother was treated by a psychiatrist, X, and an associate Y. They also prepared expert reports. M formally complained about X, and the charges having been dismissed, the doctors now sought disclosure of . .
CitedThe Christian Institute and Others v The Lord Advocate SC 28-Jul-2016
(Scotland) By the 2014 Act, the Scottish Parliament had provided that each child should have a named person to monitor that child’s needs, with information about him or her shared as necessary. The Institute objected that the imposed obligation to . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 06 January 2021; Ref: scu.165528