Letters to the Editor
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MEDICAL CONFIDENTIALITY - WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Inappropriate release of confidential medical information may lead the patient to suffer:
Medical confidentiality is not medical secret and not absolute. Medical information can be released in the following situations:
Even if the doctor is required to release medical information he should disclose only that which is relevant for that purpose. In case of doubt the medical practitioner should consult his medical defence. The medical practitioner should at all times be able to justify his action to release medical information when called to do so.
A medical doctor in maintaining confidentiality must do it entirely for the patientís interest and not those of the doctor. A doctor fearing questions on his clinical diagnosis and decision cannot use medical confidentiality as a cover to avoid releasing information where appropriate.
At the same time medical practitioners have been required by third party payers like employers and Managed Care Systems to release diagnosis and details of treatment under their care - what is the legal position? Has the patient really given consent? What is the definition of giving consent? What if a solicitor or police want to have access to your patientsí records? In the age of information technology and the likes of National Patient Master Index (NPMI) system and other forms of electronic storage and transmission, how can confidentiality be adequately maintained?
All these questions and more will be addressed at the SMA Ethics Convention on Sunday 28 November 1999. SMA members who would like to submit case studies and questions for the Panel Discussion in the Mini Course in Ethics may do so to the SMA Secretariat. The SMA Ethics Convention carries with it 3 CME points. As the practice of medicine is rapidly evolving all doctors have to equip themselves with knowledge and skills on health law and ethics.
DR T Thirumoorthy