Published: 31 July 2008

The Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003: Some implications for public health and medical research

This discussion document examines some of the legal and practice ramifications of the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003 for public health and medical research. This document covers:

  • Chapter 1: The general issues of law that pertain to privacy and confidentiality in relation to medical information.
  • Chapter 2: The Data Protection Act in general and its background; the Data Protection Act with application to medical research; an examination of certain case studies to explore the difficulties that the Act poses in its application to certain types of research protocols; a discussion of whether regulation/legislation is required to resolve concerns.
  • Chapter 3: Disclosure of records of the dead.
  • Chapter 4: An overview and selected comparison with other jurisdictions.

It should be noted that this area of law and practice is in a state of evolution. Where doubt as to practice exists, contact should be made with the Data Protection Commissioner ( and in cases of doubt or where a fear of breaching confidentiality exists, legal advice should be sought. The importance of documenting carefully decisions relating to disclosure of confidential information and its justification is advised and emphasised here.


  • Asim Sheikh

Publication (PDF, 1 MB)

Publication (PDF, 1 MB)

Health Research Board
Health Research Board
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