Agencies must alter information sharing

Adoption agencies should not apply a blanket
approach to sharing information with adoptees if they want to avoid
legal action, a leading children’s law expert has warned.

Barrister Ruth Henke told delegates at the
BAAF Adoption & Fostering Confidentiality and Disclosure
conference that Mr Justice Scott Baker’s ruling against the Nugent
Care Society case would have an impact on the whole sector.

The high court judge ruled that the NCS had to
review its decision not to let Linda Gunn-Russo see confidential
documents from her 1948 adoption about her birth and natural
parents. Gunn-Russo had been in touch with her natural family since
1951 (News, page 4, 26 July 2001).

Henke said: “The crux of Scott Baker’s
decision was that the agency had not considered the particular
circumstances. A general policy in any particular case is liable to
leave an adoption agency open to a judicial review.” She
recommended that agencies look at each adoptee’s request for
information about adoption on an individual basis.

Doctors involved in adoption cases were also
faced with the problem of how to deal with confidential information
about an adopted child, BAAF chairperson of medical group Dr Mary
Mather told delegates.

She said doctors were barred from revealing
medical details about children adopted before 1989 to the adopters
or the child itself without the birth parents’ permission. She said
that if they broke this confidentiality and were complained about
to the General Medical Council they risked having to justify their

Mather said any solution to the problem would
involve a consensus between the Department of Health, the GMC and
the law.

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