Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Ethics Man

Should healthcare professionals breach confidentiality when a patient is unfit to drive?

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 31 March 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j1505
  1. Daniel Sokol, medical ethicist and barrister
  1. 12 King’s Bench Walk, London
  1. daniel.sokol{at}

Making DVLA disclosure mandatory could tackle impaired drivers’ reluctance to appreciate the danger they pose to others

Poppy-Arabella was 3 years old. On 6 July 2016 she and her mother were on their way to nursery. As they crossed a road at a red traffic light, a car approached. It did not slow down or swerve, and it struck them both in the middle of the crossing. Poppy-Arabella was killed; her mother, seriously injured.

The driver, John Place, was 72. He had poor eyesight and did not see the red light, the crossing, or the pedestrians.

Three weeks earlier, two optometrists had told Place to stop driving. He pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and was sentenced to four years in prison. This case raises the familiar question about medical secrecy: should …

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