Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Ethics Man

ABC of medical confidentiality

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 04 March 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m857
  1. Daniel Sokol, medical ethicist and barrister
  1. 12 King’s Bench Walk, London
  1. daniel.sokol{at}
    Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielSokol9

It is right for the bar to be set high for breaching trust

A woman who sued the NHS for not telling her during pregnancy that her father had Huntington’s disease has lost her case.1 The High Court found that doctors who maintained the confidentiality of her father and refused to tell his pregnant daughter, referred to as ABC, about his Huntington’s disease were neither negligent nor in breach of her human rights.2

The father’s genetic condition was diagnosed during the course of his hospital treatment. He refused to allow disclosure to his pregnant daughter. She discovered the diagnosis through an inadvertent “slip” by a psychiatrist some months after the birth of her child and sued three NHS trusts for not disclosing the diagnosis in time for her to obtain an abortion. She claims that she would have chosen to have …

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