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Landmark Decision of the Constitutional Court: Do You Need Information from the Health System?

Landmark Decision of the Constitutional Court: Do You Need Information from the Health System?

Czech Republic
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If you need statistical data maintained by the National Health Information System for your work or scientific research, whether demographic data on births or deaths, statistics on cancer patients, information on assisted reproduction or other information, you will be interested in a landmark decision of the Constitutional Court.

This week, the Constitutional Court ruled "in favour" of a citizen requesting information, establishing a certain corrective to the common practice of the Institute of Health Information and Statistics (the "Institute") denying citizens' requests for information.

In this case, the Institute had rejected the citizen's request for information on the number of deaths and their causes between 2014 and 2019 in the Czech Republic, claiming that applicants could only receive information on the structure of the data, not the data itself. The Constitutional Court opposed this purely grammatical interpretation of the law, stating that "the right to information may be restricted only in cases where such a procedure has a legal basis and is necessary in a democratic society to protect rights or values such as public interest, public security or the rights and freedoms of others."

As of this week, the Institute will no longer be able to flatly refuse citizens' requests for information. On the contrary, it must assess each request individually and, if it does refuse a request, it must give clear and convincing reasons for doing so. It is difficult to imagine that information on the number of deaths and their causes over a given period of time could endanger a particular interest or any right or freedom. Moreover, in the present case the Institute referred the applicant to another way of obtaining the information, which it probably would not have done had the information in question been extremely sensitive. Contrary to the Institute's decision, there is an undeniable public interest in the disclosure of statistical data like these, as such information may help improve subsequent health care, the prevention of various health problems or the operation of new clinical research.

By Vladena Svobodova, Associate, JSK, PONTES


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