Leading article: Right to privacy

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The Independent Online

The full ramifications of the Coroners and Justice Bill continue to disentangle.

We now know that this rag-bag of policy half-thoughts, ranging from secret inquests to data-sharing, will empower any minister, at the stroke of a pen, to order the sharing of a citizen's personal data.

This data-sharing may include medical records. Doctors are understandably enraged, and the heads of Britain's medical colleges have written to Jack Straw warning him that, while patients may trust doctors with their most private medical concerns, they will become less open if those details are shared with hundreds of anonymous officials and businessmen. Mr Straw should make a receptive audience.

He recently overruled the Information Commissioner's decision to release Cabinet minutes regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq. His justification: that ministers must be allowed to speak frankly – and in private. And if ministers, why not patients? Why not the rest of us?