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French authorities granted access to psychiatric records to ‘prevent terrorist radicalization’

French authorities granted access to psychiatric records to ‘prevent terrorist radicalization’
Authorities in France will now be notified by psychiatric healthcare professionals if they feel a patient is in danger of “terrorist radicalization,” sparking renewed concerns over the future of doctor-patient confidentiality.

In a decree published Tuesday, the French Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn announced that authorities will be able to merge two streams of personal data in cases where a suspect is hospitalized without consent “for the purpose of preventing radicalization.”

The first stream includes data such as the name and date of birth of those undergoing “psychiatric care without consent” under a system codenamed Hopsyweb. The second data stream covers a person's profile from their Terrorism Prevention and Terrorization Reporting File (FSPRT).

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In certain cases, regional magistrates and the prefect of police in Paris will be notified when the personal information of a forcibly hospitalized patient match those contained in the FSPRT system.

The National Commission for Informatics and Freedoms (CNIL), the body responsible for the protection and use of personal data, will consult on all such cases and underlined “the profound difference of purpose between the two files, one with a psychiatric history of a certain gravity, the other having the nature of an intelligence file.”

The measure, first announced on May 23 last year but fully disclosed Tuesday, is already facing several appeals before the Council of State given that the link between terrorism and mental illness has long been debated and remains a controversial issue to this day, particularly among those in psychiatric professions.

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In August 2017, then Minister of the Interior Gérard Collomb estimated that one third of people reported for alleged radicalisation “present psychological disorders,” which prompted him to call for psychiatric healthcare professionals to “identify the profiles” of such high-risk individuals.

His comments sparked a wave of outcry and protest from the College of Physicians which cited “the absolute necessity to preserve the fundamental principles of the professional exercise, in particular that of the medical secret.”

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