A proposed new law that would require health professionals to report cancers and brain tumors to a national registry should be amended so that patients’ names and addresses are not collected, the Medical and Dental Society has recommended.
The Cancer Registry Bill provides for the automatic reporting of cancers diagnosed in the Cayman Islands to the national registry.
In its current form, the bill requires doctors to report patients’ names and addresses to the registry. Critics, including the Human Rights Commission, have questioned why such personal information is required.
Advocates of the bill maintain that the names are useful, in the first instance, to ensure there is no duplication of reporting. They also point out that the names will not be entered into the register and that the information will be available only to Cancer Registrar Amanda Nicholson.
They say addresses are important for researchers to help determine whether environmental factors, such as proximity to cell towers or the landfill site, might contribute to increased risk of cancer.
The bill is currently out for public consultation. The Legislative Assembly meets next week, but as of Wednesday afternoon, it was not clear whether the Cancer Registry Bill would be debated this session.
The order of business for the Legislative Assembly session will not be decided until Monday, according to a spokesperson.
The Cayman Islands Medical and Dental Society released a statement Wednesday in support of the bill but recommended some changes.
“While it is understood that names and addresses are never included in the registry database, after thoroughly reviewing the bill, the Cayman Islands Medical and Dental Society has suggested that names and addresses also be omitted from the data collection form to be used by reporting physicians,” the statement said.
“The society supports this bill and will continue to be a strong advocate for the automatic reporting of cancers to the national registry,” it adds.
Dr. Virgina Hobday, president of the society, said there is currently little information on cancer trends in Cayman.
Basic data, such as how many people are diagnosed with cancer each year or what types of cancer are most common in the territory, is currently not available to health officials.
Dr. Hobday said the society supports the bill as the best way to get that information.
“Automatic reporting has been commonplace in cancer registries all over the world for decades and has proven to be the most reliable way to collect accurate cancer surveillance data,” she added.
Ms. Nicholson, the cancer registrar, said removing the requirement to include names when the data is collected is not impossible but would create practical difficulties. She said officials will listen to the feedback and changes could be made if necessary.
“I personally would prefer for names to be included on the form, simply because it helps prevent duplicate reports, but first and foremost we want to make sure the public is comfortable,” she said.