NZ: HC overturns BSA privacy decision

Steven Price writes in the Media Law Journal:

Last August, the BSA upheld a complaint from Dr Stephanie du Fresne, the medical director of a mental health clinic, about an interview with one of her committed patients conducted without the clinic’s knowledge. TV3 News interviewed the woman about her electric shock treatment, which she didn’t want. The story revealed that she was bipolar and manic depressive. She said she suffered night terrors and had attempted suicide twice because of fear of the treatment. Her husband supported the treatment, and was seen on the programme trying to stop the interview. But the woman seemed lucid and in control; she overrode her husband.

There’s no doubt the programme revealed private, personal details about her, and that without informed consent, the broadcast of such details was highly offensive. But did she give informed consent? TV3 said yes. She seemed to know what she was doing. Her lawyer supported her. There was some evidence that, even after her release, she did not regret the interview. “Informed consent” was a judgment to be formed by journalists, not doctors. It felt that the patient had the right to speak out against her treatment.

Dr Du Fresne said no. The clinic’s medical judgment was that she was not capable of giving informed consent. They told TV3 this when they became aware of the upcoming broadcast. TV3 got no second opinion. It ran the story, but broadcast Dr Du Fresne’s view about her incapacity.

Du Fresne complained to the BSA, which upheld the complaint… but the High Court disagreed.

Read more – Media Law Journal

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