Canadian Woman Denied Entry To U.S. Because Of Her Medical History

This story deeply troubles me as a practicing psychiatrist and Freudian psychoanalyst. It’s appalling to see technology used in ways that increase the harms and stigma people with mental illness and addiction endure.
 
 
The story is about a disabled Canadian woman denied the right to travel by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent because of her history of hospitalization for Depression.
 
Quotes from the story about the agent who denied her US entry for the cruise:
  •   He cited the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 212, which denies entry to people who have had a physical or mental disorder that may pose a “threat to the property, safety or welfare’’ of themselves or others.
  •    The agent gave her a signed document which stated that “system checks’’ had found she “had a medical episode in June 2012’’ and that because of the “mental illness episode’’ she would need a medical evaluation before being accepted.
How did the US obtain electronic health data on Canadian citizens?
How frequently is the US Government accessing the electronic health records of Canadians?
How frequently is the US Government (and state governments) accessing our electronic health records?
 
Partial answers come from a CBC News story with information from Wikileaks. Quotes:
  • According to an RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) website, the CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre) database stores 9.6 million records in its investigative databanks.
  • The RCMP and U.S. law enforcement agencies provide reciprocal direct access to each other’s criminal databases in order to stem the flow of narcotics and criminal dealings into North America, according to the WikiLeaks cable.
  • When asked about the sharing of police information for security purposes, Kamenitz says the government is “obviously not considering what the impact of that can be and how much that can alter a person’s life.”
 
How does the US use electronic health information on American citizensor people with histories of treatment for mental illness or hospitalization?  
 
This is ominous because of the proliferation of federal laws requiring that state data bases of involuntary commitments for hospitalization be reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to prevent violent mentally ill people from buying gunsand the proliferation of state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMs) for controlled substances. 
  • (FYI—-Currently US patients are denied their federal rights to have a list of who used their electronic health records and why—the war over the regulations to implement this critical consumer protection is intense. Industry has held this up for almost 5 years claiming its too hard, too expensive, no technology exists, it will burden and scare patients to see how many 1000s of access there are every day, etc, etc.)
There is a huge state and national push to build/use data bases about mental illness or addiction for many purposes. 

 

It’s the same phenomena we saw in 2009 when the technology industry got $29B in subsidies for health IT written into the stimulus bill—despite the absence of interest or support of the majority of patients and physicians. See story by Robert O’Harrow on “The Machinery Behind Healthcare Reform”: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/15/AR2009051503667.html 
Every family and every person is close to someone suffering from Depression, addiction, or another mental illnesses. The lack of privacy already drives over 2 million people a year away from treatment for Depression and major mental illness.
 
This is truly a national tragedy. Knowing the US government accesses the nation’s electronic health records will discourage even more people from seeking treatment for serious mental illnesses that are VERY treatable.  
 
Best,
Deborah