Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Ethics Man

Is doctor-patient confidentiality dying a slow death?

BMJ 2018; 363 doi: (Published 15 October 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k4313
  1. Daniel Sokol, medical ethicist and barrister
  1. 12 King’s Bench Walk, London
  1. daniel.sokol{at}
    Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielSokol9

The threshold for divulging information to other professionals should remain very high

Mary, an acquaintance, called me early one morning. She said her husband had grabbed her throat and slapped her a few days previously. Their children were asleep at the time, oblivious to the incident. That same evening Mary read online that victims of domestic abuse should visit their GP.

Mary shared her story with her GP. Despite the GP’s encouragement to disclose the incident to the authorities, Mary insisted that nothing be said to anyone. She wanted the marriage to work. Her husband had never hit her before; the injuries were limited to minor bruising; and the children were not in any danger.

A few days later some police …

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