Keogh and Department of Health (310029)

Application number:
Decision date:
Tuesday, Aug 31, 2010

Section 47(3)(b) and 49 of the Right to Information Act 2009(Qld)


The applicant applied to the Department of Health (QH) for access to the medical records of her deceased son.  In its decision, QH refused the applicant access to the information found responsive to her application under section 47(3)(b) of the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) (RTI Act) on the basis that its disclosure would be contrary to the public interest under section 49 of the RTI Act.  On internal review, QH affirmed its earlier decision.


The applicant then sought external review by the Office of the Information Commissioner of QH’s internal review decision.  In varying QH’s decision the Information Commissioner acknowledged that in addition to the applicant’s general right to seek access under the RTI Act and her being a recognised eligible family member, the public interest in the social and economic well-being of the community and accountability favoured disclosure of the majority of the information in this case because:


·          the information may assist in the applicant’s rehabilitation;

·          in accordance with the reasoning in Re Summers and Cairns District Health Service (1997)3 QAR 479 the deceased’s privacy interests were substantially diminished on the basis that for the duration of his admission in hospital he was incapacitated to the extent that the applicant and her ex-husband were required to make health care decisions on his behalf and give consent for their son’s life support to be ceased;

·          end of life decision making is a significant process and it is in the public interest for it to be the subject of public scrutiny so that public confidence in the health system is maintained.


Accordingly, the Information Commissioner found that disclosure of the information would not be contrary to the public interest in relation to all documents except for:


·          document 61 which relates to the personal information of a third party and is unrelated to the treatment afforded the applicant’s son;

·          documents 140-204 which relate to the procedure concerning organ donation; and

·          the social work note dated 5 May 2009 on document 129.