Breach of Doctor/Patient Confidentiality

Information exchanged within certain relationships are kept confidential by law whether or not a confidentiality agreement has been signed or the person sharing the information is aware of such public policy.

As a public policy, Health care professionals are bound by the terms of such confidentiality. Breach of this doctor-patient confidentiality is considered a form of medical malpractice under federal law.

Confidentiality in Medical Practice

The American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Medical Ethics provides that :

  1. Information disclosed to a physician by a patient should be held in confidence.
  2. The patient should feel free to make a full disclosure of information to the physician in order that the physician may most effectively provide needed services and that the patient should be able to make this disclosure with the knowledge that the physician will respect the confidential nature of the communication.
  3. The physician should not reveal confidential information without the express consent of the patient, subject to certain exceptions which are ethically justified because of overriding considerations.

Breach of Confidentiality

The concept of doctor-patient confidentiality is based on trust and includes the understanding that whatever conditions the patient may suffer from and the treatments the patient undergoes will be kept confidential from any third party. Courts hold breach of doctor-patient confidentiality agreement as a serious offense, considering it a form of medical malpractice. It is held equal to negligence on behalf of the doctor who illegally shares information to any third party.

Doctor-patient confidentiality covers information related to the doctor directly by the patient, any information the doctor has learned from his examination of the patient. Including all medical records and all communications between the patient and doctor or other staff working for the doctor. It also covers electronically stored medical records or personal information. Patients records must be kept confidential, safe, and inaccessible to unauthorized parties.

The duty of the doctor to keep patient’s health and medical records confidential does not end when a patient terminates such doctor’s services and seeks treatment elsewhere or engages the service of another physician.

However, a physician or health care provider may disclose any information about his or her patient with that patient’s consent.




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