Observations Ethics Man

A crisis of confidence

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39521.625486.59 (Published 20 March 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:639
  1. Daniel K Sokol, lecturer in medical ethics and law, St George’s, University of London
  1. daniel.sokol{at}talk21.com

With regards to confidentiality, there is a discrepancy between what appears on the pages of professional medical guidance and what occurs at the coalface

A patient is admitted to your ward. In your first encounter with the patient, do you explain that their personal details will be shared with other members of the medical team? Do you point out that this helps the team provide safer and more effective care, but that they none the less have the right to refuse? If not, you are flouting the guidance of both the General Medical Council (GMC) and the BMA.

You should make sure that patients are aware that personal information about them will be shared within the healthcare team, unless they object, and of the reasons for this (see the GMC’s publication Confidentiality (April 2004)). It is important that patients are made aware that information about them will be shared and with whom it will be shared, and of their right to refuse (BMA Ethics Department. Medical Ethics Today: The BMA’s Handbook of Ethics and Law. Second edition, 2004).

And if we want patients to be really informed about confidentiality, …

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