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Journalism groups, Obama administration clash over restrictions on doctor data

Post-Dispatch, November 11, 2011

Journalism groups on Thursday protested the federal government's decision to restrict the use of public information on doctors' discipline and malpractice records. The public file of the National Practitioner Data Bank was restored Wednesday after going dark for two months when a doctor complained about a reporter's use of the data. The restored data came with a requirement that anyone using it must agree not to cross-reference with other public records to identify doctors, and to delete or return the data at the government's request. In a letter to U.S. health secretary Kathleen Sebelius, seven organizations including the Association of Health Care Journalists said the conditions placed on users "are ill-advised, unenforceable and probably unconstitutional. Restricting how reporters use public data is an attempt at prior restraint."