Section 44(1) Matter affecting personal affairs
The applicant sought access to documents held by the Department of Health relating to his deceased father.
The Department of Health submitted that the matter in issue was exempt from disclosure under section 44(1) of the FOI Act as it concerned the personal affairs of a person other than the applicant and the public interest favoured non-disclosure of the information.
After careful consideration of the submissions made by all parties and previous decisions of the Information Commissioner including Summers and Cairns District Health Service (1997) 3 QAR 479, Assistant Commissioner Henry found that while the matter in issue did concern the personal affairs of a person other than the applicant, on balance, the public interest in protecting the deceased’s privacy interests was substantially diminished in the circumstances, given the applicant’s:
· close involvement in his father’s care;
· knowledge of his father’s care including his medical status and history; and
· special relationship with his father (including the deceased’s dependence on the applicant on account of the deceased’s lack of capacity and the fact that the applicant held a relevant enduring power of attorney).
AC Henry also considered the applicant’s submission that there were considerable differences between what had been decided under the enduring power of attorney and what actually occurred, including that certain instructions were not followed. In response, the Department of Health submitted that disclosure of the matter in issue to the applicant was not necessary in order to permit the relevant accountability mechanism to operate properly. On balance, AC Henry decided that disclosure of the matter in issue to the applicant would directly further the public interest in government accountability and that this public interest consideration was particularly strong in the circumstances of this case.
After weighing all relevant public interest considerations, AC Henry found that on balance, disclosure of the matter in issue was in the public interest and that the matter in issue did not qualify for exemption from disclosure under section 44(1) of the FOI Act.