About nine in 10 Canadians support legislation that would protect patient confidentiality. However, the Canadian public is not consistent in its views regarding privacy. Data suggest that the public's attitudes to privacy, and particularly access to medical records, are heavily influenced by the context in which the situation is presented and potential benefits to the individual or to the public.
Traditionally in Canada, there are three health and safety rights: the right to participate (joint workplace health and safety committees); the right to refuse unsafe and unhealthy work; and the right to know about workplace hazards. By the end of the 1970s, the right to know had been established in law across Canada, but it was not enough to cover workplace chemical hazards in particular. The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) was a project set up by the Canadian federal government in 1982 to address the issue. This article tells the story of how labor got the progressive WHMIS agreement(1985) and how the agreement has been implemented in the following years.
The advent of the human genome sequence has focused research on understanding underlying genetic links to complex diseases such as cancer, asthma and heart disease. In the past few years, individual countries, such as Iceland, Estonia, Singapore and the United Kingdom, have created national databases of their citizens' DNA for comparative research. Most recently, an international consortium including Nigeria, Japan, China and the United States launched a $100 million project called the International HapMap to map the human genome according to haplotypes, blocks of DNA that contain genetic variation. Such population genetic databases present challenging ethical, social and legal issues, yet regulation of genetic information has developed sporadically, from region to region, without a consistent international standard. Without a clear understanding of the consequences of genetic research in terms of individual and community-wide discrimination and stigmatization, genetic databases raise concerns about the protection of genetic information. This Note provides a survey of the evolving landscape of population genetic databases as a legislative and public policy tool for national and international regulators. It compares different approaches to regulating the collection and use of population genetic databases in order to understand what areas of consensus are formulating a foundation for an international standard. As the first population genetics project that will span multiple countries for the collection of DNA, the International HapMap has the potential to become an influential standard for the protection of population genetic information. This Note highlights issues among the national databases and the HapMap project that raise ethical, social and legal concerns for the future and recommends further protections for both individual donors and community interests.