Patient secrecy to be ignored for security police

If Sweden's security police (Säpo) requests details about patients who have threatened politicians or the royal family, medical and care staff should break their duty of confidentiality and hand over the information.

That is the view of the government, which is due to make a proposal to parliament on the matter soon, according to Svenska Dagbladet.

The Board of Health and Welfare is also proposing a national register of individuals in secure psychiatric care.

Every escape attempt, solitary confinement and use of restraints would be registered, reported Dagens Medicin. The Board admits that there is a risk that individuals’ privacy will be breached, but argues that the benefits to society and patient security are more important.

“It is always sensitive with individuals’ details on a central register, but after the fierce debate about secure psychiatric care over the last few years I believe we will get a good hearing for the proposal,” said Helena Silfverhielm, medical counsel at the Board of Health and Welfare.

The register would contain current information about every patient being held. Details of the clinic, period of care, escape attempts, parole, diagnosis, solitary confinement and drug abuse would be recorded.

Currently the board has no idea how many people are in enforced care, where they are or for how long, or who has tried to escape.

That makes life harder for Säpo, which was strongly criticised after the murder of foreign minister Anna Lindh in September 2003. In a government inquiry the Chancellor of Justice Hans Regner said that Säpo needed a better range of options for minimising the threat to ministers and other politicians.

Currently, Säpo can only find out whether a certain person is being held in an institution or not. But according to a draft proposal seen by SvD, medical and care staff should be obliged to hand over personal details – for example, if a patient is refusing to take medication or if someone shows a threatening attitude towards a minister or member of the royal family.

However, the National Association for Social and Mental Health said it was opposed to the idea, fearing that it would lead to people refusing care when they needed it.

“We risk creating a situation where patients do not dare to entrust themselves to doctors if their papers are then going to be handed over to Säpo,” said the association’s Kjell Broström.

Discuss this topic!

TT/The Local