1 minute read

Patients' Rights - Privacy And Confidentiality

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Ordinary resolution to Patients' Rights - ConsentPatients' Rights - Consent, Informed Consent, Right To Treatment, Medical Experimentation, Advance Medical Directives, Right To Die

Privacy and Confidentiality

Confidentiality between a doctor and patient means that a doctor has the express or implied duty not to disclose information received from the patient to anyone not directly involved with the patient's care. Confidentiality is important so that healthcare providers have knowledge of all facts, regardless of how personal or embarrassing, that might have a bearing on a patient's health. Patients must feel that it is safe to communicate such information freely. Although this theory drives doctor-patient confidentiality, the reality is that many people have routine and legitimate access to a patient's records. A hospital patient might have several doctors, nurses, and support personnel on every shift, and a patient might also see a therapist, nutritionist, or pharmacologist, to name a few.

The law requires some confidential information to be reported to authorities. For example, birth and death certificates must be filed; CHILD ABUSE cases must be reported; and infectious, contagious, or communicable diseases must be reported. In addition, confidential information may also be disclosed pursuant to a judicial proceeding or to notify a person to whom a patient may pose a danger.

In spite of the numerous exceptions to the contrary, patients legitimately demand and expect confidentiality in many areas of their treatment. Generally speaking, patients must be asked to consent before being photographed or having others unrelated to the case (including medical students) observe a medical procedure; they have the right to refuse to see anyone not connected to a hospital; they have the right to have a person of the patient's own sex present during a physical examination conducted by a member of the opposite sex; they have the right to refuse to see persons connected with the hospital who are not directly involved in the patient's care and treatment (including social workers and chaplains); and they have the right to be protected from having details of their condition made public.

A patient owns the information contained in medical records, but the owner of the paper on which they are written is usually considered the actual owner of the records. The patient's legal interest in the records generally means that the patient has a right to see the records and is entitled to a complete copy of them. The patient's rights are subject to reasonable limitations such as requiring inspection and copying to be done on the doctor's premises during working hours.

Additional topics