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Confusion reigns as data law continues to threaten research

Biomedical researchers in the UK breathed a sigh of relief this week as a new law lifted the threat of the data protection regulations. But can research without patient consent continue as before?

Zosia Kmietowicz

LONDON It has been a turbulent few months for UK researchers and government regulators at loggerheads over the interpretation of the 1998 Data Protection Act.

Biomedical researchers have been fighting for their professional lives, claiming that guidance from the General Medical Council (GMC) on how the Act should be implemented would destroy the future of British research and put public health unnecessarily at risk.

Meanwhile champions of patients' rights have stuck to their guns, saying that to deny patients the option of refusing to pass on their personal details for research purposes was an infringement of human rights.

By Friday 11 May a certain calm — or was it confusion — had settled over the debate. On Thursday night the Health and Social Care Bill had passed through Parliament with the crucial clause 65 intact. This meant that a new statutory body, the Patient Information Advisory Group (PIAG), would be...

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