Research Article

How informed is patients' consent to release of medical information to insurance companies?

BMJ 1989; 298 doi: (Published 03 June 1989) Cite this as: BMJ 1989;298:1495
  1. R. E. Lorge


    A study was conducted to assess how informed the consent of patients is to the release of confidential information to insurance companies. Questionnaires were sent to 226 consecutive patients from four practices whose general practitioners had received requests to complete a personal medical attendant's report for an insurance company. In total 195 patients returned the questionnaire, whose six questions required only a yes or no answer. More than half of the patients (102 (52%] could not recall having given their consent and 79 (40%) had one or more objections to the questions commonly asked by insurance companies. Questions about sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS led to the greatest proportion of objections (85% (67/79) and 80% (63/79) respectively). Over half (111 (57%) of the 195 respondents expected their doctor to withhold sensitive information. Of the 93 patients who gave their informed consent, 63 (68%) did not expect that their doctor would be asked to answer one or more of the common questions. In most cases the consent of patients to the release of confidential information to insurance companies is neither knowingly given nor informed.