Privacy Act Deprives Comfort from Church

Jan 10, 2003 12:01 AM EST

In Australia, a Privacy Act took effect on Dec. 21, 2002 that restricts churches from placing names on prayer lists and bulletins unless given permission. To the clergy, they found this issue difficult especially in situations as to visit patients in hospitals due to the restriction.

"If there is any doubt about what the individual's reasonable expectations are, it is good privacy practice to check with them first, especially where sensitive matters such as health or personal troubles are involved," said deputy privacy commissioner Timothy Pilgrim.

The Anglican Bishop Roger Herft of Newcastle explains that the act detracts the spontaneity of comfort for a person when he or she unexpectedly hears their name read out loud on the prater list. He said that even though the individual's right is respected, that people should be able to care for one another without restrictions.

"It would seem to me that the Privacy Act, if it is not used sensibly, can contribute to the biggest disease of mankind and that is loneliness. People can feel completely left out of the loop if we are not careful." Said Herft.

Because the hospital cannot release the information of the patients anymore, the clergy found it difficult to get access. The patients must sign a permission form before any clergy may visit them there.

By Tony C.