Clara Bechet

Gustave Roussy

“[...]Data protection may seem like a very specific or even tedious part of the law, but when it comes down to it, it’s the backdrop to almost everything that happens at Gustave Roussy—or at any modern company, in fact.

“I specifically chose to do a Master’s degree in medical law because it had modules on data protection. I found that fascinating because it’s very technical but also cuts across many fields, so there’s a nice balance between the specific and the general. It’s also a field guided by ethical principles, because you’re ensuring that patients can assert their rights at any time and that their personal data is used in accordance with their wishes—either by consent or by non-opposition.

“I’ve wanted to go into a health-related field for as long as I can remember—a nurse, doctor or vet. Except for when I wanted to be a prima ballerina, of course! But then again, the role of a DPO can feel like you’re doing a delicate dance much of the time; it’s incredibly subtle and the phrasing of a single word can change everything. People often think that the law is rigid and inflexible, but it’s more like a tree with many branches—there are multiple directions you can follow when assessing a problem.

“The challenge with my work is to reconcile the regulatory texts on the one hand, which are quite rigorous, with the reality of research projects. These two areas can feel in conflict sometimes, but if any doubt arises then the decision is simple—the security of personal data always takes priority. I’m very meticulous in my work because I know that the privacy of patients and the reputation of the institute are at stake.

“I really enjoy working in the service of research, alongside researchers who are doing such an important job. It’s a real motivation for me. The lawyer is rigorous, the researcher is rigorous, the regulations are rigorous, but ultimately the process requires a lot of creativity. Regulations cannot cover every eventuality, so you need to understand how to interpret and apply them. Legislators cannot cover everything—it’s our role to extend the protection to and for our patients.”

As told to Florent Tribalat. This conversation has been translated from French.

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