HSE examines alleged data leak of patient who had abortion

1 Feb 2019

National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin. Image: Warren LeMay/Flickr

The Health Service Executive is among the bodies examining an alleged leak of personal data following a termination at a Dublin maternity hospital.

Minister for Health Simon Harris, TD, has ordered an investigation into allegations that the personal data of a woman who had a medical abortion at a Dublin hospital was leaked. Harris has directed the Health Service Executive (HSE) to investigate any potential breaches of patient data.

The Data Protection Commission, the HSE and the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) on Holles Street are among the bodies investigating the allegations. Concerns have arisen regarding how the details of the woman in question were obtained by the man who reached her by both call and text message.

A call from an unknown number

The young woman is said to have received a phone call from a man asking her to attend his clinic, despite having already gone ahead with a medical termination. A further text message allegedly directed the woman to a premises on the Berkeley Road in Dublin.

The original story, which was disseminated widely on social media, claims the woman had no idea how her details ended up in the caller’s possession. It also alleges the man was verbally abusive to her about her decision to terminate her pregnancy. An Garda Síochána told her to block the number in question.

A spokesperson for Minister Harris said: “The Minister has been quite clear abortion services should be viewed as a normalised part of the health service and women should not be subjected to any intimidation or harassment.”

HSE investigation underway

The HSE told Siliconrepublic.com that it takes any potential breach of patient data “very seriously and is establishing the facts around this incident”.

It stressed that its MyOptions helpline (1800 828 010) and website are free to use, offering non-directive, free counselling and information for people dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

The HSE said it was aware of a number of websites and ads appearing in search results and social media that claim to be providing support services for unplanned pregnancy under variations of the MyOptions name.

It added that there are a number of such agencies that “may have a hidden agenda” and may try to influence a person’s decision. A spokesperson noted that there are often signs a counselling service is not reputable. These can include delays in giving a patient a pregnancy test result, requiring patients to wait a long time between appointments and biased information in their literature, among other things.

National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin. Image: Warren LeMay/Flickr

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects