Friday, February 26, 2010

More on the MRC secret files

Returning to an earlier post (see January 28, this year), I have just found this discussion of the Medical Research Council's secret files:

I would write a summary, but my brain just isn't up to it any longer. And for those who don't know me, I've completed two Master's degrees each with a research dissertation, from leading universities on each side of the Atlantic, so saying I'm not up to summarizing a short article is an indication of just how badly this illness has affected my brain.

I made a request to view the "secret files" and this is the response I received:

"The Section 40 (2) exemption is therefore seen to be engaged towards the overwhelming majority of this extract contains the personal sensitive data of named individuals who are believed to still be living. Whilst The National Archives is unable to comment on the specific nature of such information, it may confirm that such information includes the medical details of named individuals including how ME affects them and other matters relating to their condition. As such it would be considered unfair to these named parties were this material to be released into the public domain. Consequently it has been determined that the public interest is best served in this instance by ensuring that the personal sensitive information of living individuals is not released into the public domain against their reasonable expectations and that all such material is processed fairly and lawfully."

Of course I don't believe that this is the real reason for one minute! It doesn't seem to have occurred to these gate-keepers that they could easily either a) black out the names of the individuals, or b) ask the individuals if they mind their names being made public (I've yet to hear of anyone with ME keeping their identity secret). Of course, as the article above notes, such care about hiding identities is not taken with other documents, so why with these?

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