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Role of Statutory Interpretation in The Court's Judgment - Part 1

Issue 

  • Whether section 5(4) of AHRA, 1990 limits the powers under section 3 (1) (f).
  • Whether there is a conflict between the two categories of persons under section 3 of the Health Records Act 1990.

Rule

  • Access to Health Records Act 1990
  • Section 5(4) and subsection (1)(f) of section 3 of the Health Records Act 1990

Application

In the present case, the respondent was the brother of the patient who had died. The respondent’s brother in the present case, the patient had arranged his sperms and had stored it in a fertility clinic. After knowing about this, despondent asked the fertility clinic to provide him with a copy of records regarding the storage of his brother's sperm to him which was denied by the hospital on the grounds of breach of patient confidentiality. This was the ground of application made by the respondent in the family court. In the light of the present facts and circumstances of the case the Health Records Act, 1990 came into the picture. Section 3 (1)(f) of the act provides the access of a health record only to a listed category of people, this list is inclusive of the dead patient's representatives or any other person who health a claim arising out of the death of the patient. It was held in the case of Samantha Jefferies v BMI Healthcare Limited and the HFE Authority[1], that according to section 5 (4) of the act states that if any application is made under subsection 1(f) section 3, the access to the records of patients' information cannot be given under subsection 2 of section 3. When the matter reaches the family division, sir Andrew contended that the holder of the record main likely to disclose the information of the patients which is nowhere relevant regarding any claim arising out of the death of the patient.

The respondent in this present case argued that according to section 3 sub-clause 1(f), there is a right enshrined upon him to have an excess upon the personal documents of his brother as he is the personal representative of his deceased sibling. Apart from this deception had created two categories of persons that can have access to the medical records of the patient. Both the personal representative and both the persons who may have a claim that arises of a death of a person can have the access and it must be noted that section 5 sub-clause 4 of the health records act is only applied to a person who you may have a claim arising out of the death of the person the same has been held in the case of Evans v Amicus Healthcare Ltd and others[2]. However, in the present case, the respondent is seeking the medical records on the grounds of him being a personal representative of his deceased sibling.

Respondent also contended that according to the Department of Health and social care the provision must be interpreted which had also been supported by the British medical association in regards of supporting section 5(4) of the act when any request is made under section 3 sub-clause 1 (f) of the Act.

In any present case both the respondent as well as the fertility clinic agreed upon the fact that section 3 sub-clauses 1f created to different categories of person who can access the personnel medical records of the disease patient. However, it must be noted that according to the Mrs U v Centre for Reproductive Medicine[3], both sections are there in nature. Section 5 sub-clause 4 was a secondary limitation and it must not create any form of ambiguity for section 3 sub-clause 1 f of the Act. It must be noted that section 5 sub-clause 4 is such a provision that provides only a reasonable and proportionate degree of limitation upon the access of the medical records of the deceased which is to be forwarded and granted to any individual who seeks the records of the patients after his death. As per Re Warren[4], it must be taken into care by the court of law that it is very important to understand the "need to know basis" regarding the grant of medical records of a disease patient rather than providing an open-ended disclosure of the entire content of the record by the hospital or any clinic. therefore in the light of the present facts and circumstances of the case the fertility clinic had to provide the medical records of the deceased sibling to the respondent in the present case as he had not asked the access of the medical records based on his claim arising out of the death of his brother but on the grounds of being a personal representative of a deceased sibling.

Conclusion

Therefore the entire issue of the present case revolves around the statutory interpretation under the access of health records act of 1990, where section 5 sub-clause 4 provides a certain amount of restriction upon the disclosure of medical records which is otherwise permitted under the provision of section 3 sub-clause 1 (f) of the Access to Health Records Act. The conflict arises due to the two different categories provided under the act who can ask the access of medical records of the disease patients on the grounds of being either a personal representative of the deceased person any other person who may have a claim arising out of the death of a person. It is very important to look into the statutory interpretation which refers that the wordings of section 3 sub-clause 1 (f) of the Access to Health Records Act is very plain on its own. It must be understood that the two categories which are the personal representative and a person who has a claim are two different disjunctives. It must be taken into care that the claim of a person is expressly tied with the second provision and not to the representative of a person. In any situation where a person is asking for a claim then he must not identify as a personal representative of a deceased individual whose records are been asked for. It is very important that in a particular case if the person seeking medical records is a personal representative of a disease patient then he must be availed with the documents under the Access of Health Records Act of 1990. In the present case, the respondent was the brother of the disease patient and therefore the respondent is a personal representative of him and can acquire the medical records.

Role of Statutory Interpretation in The Court's Judgment - Part 2

Role of statutory interpretation in the court's judgment Re AB [2020] EWHC 691 (Fam).

Statutory interpretation plays a vital role at the Court of justice while providing any final judgment over any decision. It is very important to understand the legal intention of a particular provision enshrined under any Act. Apart from this if the intention is understood it must be taken into care that the utility of the concept behind the legislative intention is properly utilized continuously. Mainly in the Australian courts, the importance of statutory interpretation has been ascertained. Especially in the case of Federal Commissioner of Taxation vs Munro[5], the court contended that while constructing the enactment of any provision and asserting the intention of any legislature from its plain words it is very important to understand the circumstances and occasions upon which the provision has to be applied. As per Re Memco Engineering Ltd[6], the interpretation of statutes is not merely finding out the attribution and meaning of a particular text but it is much more than it. The interpretation of the statue helps the judges to understand the authoritative status as well as the legal nature of a particular text along with its significance in a particular situation. This helps the code to understand particular statutory wordings along with its very peculiar significance.

In the light of the case of Re AB[7], this revolves around the disclosure of medical records to his brother holds the importance of statutory interpretation in this particular case. As in this for mostly the judges in this situation had held section 3 sub-clause 1 (f) as unqualified regarding providing access to the medical health records in such a sense that it is not important to show that a personal representative has a claim arising out of the death of the patient and this same clarification was also welcomed by the British medical association. It must be noticed that the judgment of this present case hide clarified the procedures that need to be followed for the sui generis applications regarding any declaration for clarifying different questions under the law. The Rules of Civil Procedure 1998 has to be applied under such situations by default. Therefore, under this case with the help of integrating the between the language of section 5 of the Access to Health Records Act and section 3 of the act, helps the court to understand that section 5 only provides a certain limitation but not restrict the complete power provided under section 3. It is very important to interpret the legislative intention behind framing section 3 under the access of Medical Health Records. If the legislature would have intended otherwise the same would have been mentioned under the provisions of the act which is not there in the present case. therefore the court concluded with the help of interpreting the plain language of the statue and its significance that when two categories are provided under section 3, and respondent false under the category of the personal representative must be provided with the medical records of his brother.

Potential benefits and shortfalls of the approach used in Re AB [2020] EWHC 691 (Fam).

The approach that is used in this case is reliance upon the statutory interpretation which increases the interpretation of the plaintext of these statutory. Moreover as per the Pillers Ltd v Cardiff (Borough) Assessment Committee[8], The potential benefit of such an approach is that the provisions are not getting complex with each other and the chances of confusion and conflicts of interest between the two provisions can be protected. The potential benefit of the approach of statutory interpretation that has been used in this present case provides the freedom to the judges to correct any errors that have been unnecessarily caused due to the poor draftsmanship of a particular act. The approach helps to determine the actual intention of the legislature without creating any conflict in the interest between the two provisions with the help of statutory interpretation of statutes the problem of the literal rule can be prevented in such a way that the parties can be provided justice just like in the present case of Re AB. The court had relied upon the powers provided under section 3 of access to medical Health records act and had compared with the limitation provided under section 5 of the same act. This approach helps to avoid absurdities which can be potentially caused by a poor draft. This approach helps to put more Reliance upon the actual intention of the legislature and provides a strict check up on the literal meaning and literal rule of the act and provision. The approach of statutory interpretation helps judges to decide upon the meaning of a statue in a more sensible manner where more than one meaning can be deciphered. An escape route from this absurdity and unjust results can be prevented with the help of applying the literal rule under the approach of statutory interpretation. However, on the other hand, the potential harm for applying this approach is that the absurdity between the provisions may likely to main difference with different judges. Therefore there is a high probability of creating injustice to the parties as the golden rule does not have any effective check upon it. Moreover, there are no strict guidelines as to how the statute must be interpreted which can lead to different outcomes in an undemocratic way. Using this approach can increase the chances of arbitrary judicial lawmaking and the arbitrary discretion of judges where this will go against the doctrine of separation of powers and supremacy of parliament under the common law.

Apart from this problem with the approach of statutory interpretation is that there are no proper guidelines provided which can give a direction to the judge as to when this rule should be applied without providing any absurd results to the parties of the case. therefore in a situation when such guidelines are not been provided it is advisable under the common law principles that it must be used only under rare occasions where the judges are not able to decide and came up upon A consensus of what the provision is intending to mean. However, in a particular situation like in the present, the statutory interpretation approach was used in correct manna where the fact is undeniable that the respondent was the sibling of the deceased patient and had the right to express his medical records under the principles and provisions provided under the axis of medical Health records of 1990.

References for Role of Statutory Interpretation in The Court's Judgment

Re AB [2020] EWHC 691

Pillers Ltd v Cardiff (Borough) Assessment Committee [1931] 2 KB 2

Federal Commissioner of Taxation v Munro [1926] HCA 58; 38 CLR 153; [1926] ALR 339

Re Memco Engineering Ltd [1986] Ch 86 at 98D

Evans v Amicus Healthcare Ltd and others [2003] EWHC 2161 (Fam)

Mrs U v Centre for Reproductive Medicine [2002] EWCA Civ 565

Re Warren [2014] EWHC 602 (Fam)

Samantha Jefferies v BMI Healthcare Limited and the HFE Authority [2016] EWHC 2493 (Fam)

[1] Samantha Jefferies v BMI Healthcare Limited and the HFE Authority [2016] EWHC 2493 (Fam)

[2] Evans v Amicus Healthcare Ltd and others [2003] EWHC 2161 (Fam)

[3] Mrs U v Centre for Reproductive Medicine [2002] EWCA Civ 565

[4] Re Warren [2014] EWHC 602 (Fam)

[5] Federal Commissioner of Taxation v Munro [1926] HCA 58; 38 CLR 153; [1926] ALR 339

[6] Re Memco Engineering Ltd [1986] Ch 86 at 98D

[7] Re AB [2020] EWHC 691

[8] Pillers Ltd v Cardiff (Borough) Assessment Committee [1931] 2 KB 21

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