Right of Rectification of Personal Data Held by a Data Controller  IEDPC 1 (31 December 2007)
I received a complaint regarding a medical report carried out at the request of the complainant's employers. The report was a psychological assessment dealing with the complainant's ability to return to her original workplace after a period of absence on sick leave.
The person concerned had received a copy of the medical report in question from the medical practitioner who carried out the assessment and she considered the contents to be inaccurate. The complainant then requested that the report be rectified to reflect what she considered to be an accurate description of her particular circumstances. However, the data controller, a consultant psychiatrist, reverted to the data subject stating that it was not possible to make the kind of alterations to the independent medical assessment that had been sought.
Under Section 6 of the Data Protection Acts 1998 and 2003, if you discover that information kept about you by a data controller is factually inaccurate or collected unfairly, you have a right to have that information rectified or, in some cases, you may have that information erased. However, this is not an unqualified right and depends on the circumstances of each case. The judgement to be made in such cases is complicated all the more when the matters at issue are medical in nature. If for example, a data controller - in this case, the medical practitioner - considers that data is, in fact, accurate and if the data subject disagrees, then one possible course in the interest of achieving an amicable resolution is for the data controller to annotate the data to the effect that the data subject believes that the data is inaccurate for reasons which should be indicated (this solution is explicitly provided for in Section 6(1)(a) of the Acts).
This course of action was followed in this case and as part of the rectification process, the complainant supplied various annotations to be included in the medical report. Also supplied with each of these annotations was a detailed explanation for such. Having examined the annotations and all the information my Office had to hand, including the medical report in question, my Office was of the opinion that the proposed annotations supplemented the medical report without changing the report materially.
My Office communicated its position to both parties and the medical practitioner concerned helpfully supplemented the medical report in question by inserting the requested annotations. This allowed for the complaint to be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.
This case clearly indicates the value of the right of an individual to seek the rectification or supplementing of personal information relating to them, in accordance with Section 6 of the Data Protection Acts, 1998 and 2003. In instances such as the case highlighted above, where the personal information is of a subjective nature, the right to rectification is not always appropriate. In this case the individual concerned was satisfied that the annotations she supplied, when recorded with the report, were sufficient to ensure that anyone reading the report had a balanced view of her circumstances.