Data protection laws slow research

In collaboration with the Press Association

Medical research is being slowed down and lives are being put at risk by unnecessary data protection regulation, a new report has claimed.

The Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) has spoken out against confusing interpretations of laws like the Data Protection Act that are making life harder for researchers who use personal medical data for their work.

Professor Robert Souhami, who chaired the report's working group, also pointed the finger at human rights legislation, the EU clinical trials directive and common confidentiality laws for hindering research progress.

Professor John Toy, medical director of Cancer Research UK, which helped fund the report, said: "The use of patient data is essential for making continued progress in cancer research.

"The report explains the legal and regulatory hurdles faced by scientists working in this area and makes important recommendations.

"We very much hope that the government will act on these recommendations and work to remove the legal confusion surrounding patient data."

As an example, the report cited Sir Richard Doll's research in 1947 that linked smoking to lung cancer, claiming that in today's regulated society, such a discovery would never have been achieved.