I’m Kate Dewhirst.

I’m a lawyer who writes about legal issues affecting healthcare in Canada

Kate Dewhirst Health Law - bringing the law to life. Meet Kate (in 13 seconds)

Doctors read Humboldt Broncos’ health records: privacy breaches undermine public trust

Posted by

In April 2018, Canadians came together from coast to coast to coast to grieve and support each other when we learned a bus was hit in Saskatchewan tragically killing 16 young hockey players and seriously injuring many of their teammates. The Humboldt Broncos story made international news and reminded us all of the fragility of life.

So, I was deeply saddened today to read the CBC news story “Doctors snooped on Humboldt Broncos’ health records – privacy commissioner finds“.

You can read the reports of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner here and here and here.

Because of the high profile nature of the crash, the health records of those affected were flagged for electronic auditing and follow up. In the days following the tragedy, six doctors in different clinical settings inappropriately read health records of Humboldt Broncos team members. Their access was not related to providing care.

In one case, a doctor looked at two players’ records “out of concern”. In that case the Privacy Commissioner wrote: <The Doctor> accessed the personal health information in the Viewer because he was concerned. Being concerned does not mean he is providing, continuing or supporting the provision of health care, nor does it mean he has a need-to-know the personal health information.

An administrative staff person was also found to have looked at records – unrelated to her work.

People working in health care cannot just help themselves to patients’ stories. Privacy breaches undermine public trust in the health care system.

Highly publicized cases involving injury, death, disease or diagnosis create a higher risk that health care staff will use their electronic login credentials to read health records not part of their authorized activities. Unauthorized viewing of records – whether coming from a place of kindness or rooted in malice – is not permitted in Saskatchewan or here in Ontario.

These cases hurt us all.

This is another opportunity to remind everyone working in health care not to view health records for any reason other than to provide care or to complete authorized administrative tasks relating to care.


If you enjoyed this article please share it:


Previous and next posts from Kate:

Some of Kate’s recent and upcoming events

Team Privacy Training Events

February 1, 11, 12, 27, March 21

For Primary Care clinics and FHTs

Kate trains health professionals from many more primary care organizations how being privacy-respectful can improve therapeutic relationships. more details...

Resilience for Lawyers

February 6, 2019

with Sharon Duffy and the Law Society of Ontario

Legal coaching session getting your goals back on track. More details...

Primary care webinars: Discrimination & Privacy Update

February 7 and March 7, 2019, 12 noon

Part of Kate’s monthly webinar series.

Our February webinar is on avoiding claims of discrimination, and in March get an update on the latest privacy issues.

Full details of the 2019 webinar series and registration here.

Privacy Officer training

April 30 through June 4, 2019

Kate’s specialist training course for Privacy Officers in health organizations.

Open to all health Privacy Officers, as well as those hoping to become Privacy Officers. Full details and registration for Privacy Officer training next spring here...

Advanced Privacy Officer training

June 18, 2019

For experienced Privacy Officers within healthcare organisations.

This one day training course focuses on how to handle difficult privacy situations using real-life (but anonymized) case studies and role-play. Full details and registration here...

Free healthcare privacy webinar - ask me anything!

February 6, 2019 9-10am and
March 6, 2019 4-5pm

Free webinar - advance registration needed

Whether you're an experience privacy officer or new in the field, pick Kate’s brain for free for an hour, in this live webinar. No charge, but you’ll need to register in advance.

Kate Dewhirst Health Law

Kate says:

My mission is bringing the law to life. I make legal theory understandable, accessible and fun! I’m available and love to work for all organizations in the healthcare sector across Ontario and beyond.

Subscribe to my mailing list and keep up to date with news:

Latest Tweets

What is the issue lawyers complain about the most? Time. What should lawyers be thinking about? Time, sure. How to… https://t.co/viubebdJM3

about 1 hour ago


contact details

901 King Street West Suite 400 East Tower
Toronto Ontario M5V 3H5

(416) 855 9557