Doctor-patient confidentiality is the expectation and legal responsibility of a doctor to keep all patient information confidential. A doctor is not authorized to share this information with anyone unless first getting the patient’s consent. The responsibility also applies to nurses and any other medical staff members who communicate with the patient or have access to the patient’s records. Doctor-patient confidentiality does not only cover the medical records themselves; it also covers all diagnoses, x-rays, medical histories, lab work and any information that is shared verbally. Even when the patient no longer sees the doctor or dies, the doctor still has a duty to keep this information private.
A breach of this confidentiality is a serious violation. If your information has been shared without your consent or if you suspect it has, you should contact a medical malpractice lawyer immediately. Our team at Bighorn Law can help you get justice for that violation of your trust.
Why Is Doctor-Patient Confidentiality Important?
The legal responsibility comes out of the need for a patient to feel safe telling his doctor everything. Many diseases and disorders are stigmatized by society, even now. If there was no agreement for confidentiality, a patient might be too afraid to tell a doctor about his illness, and that may lead to improper diagnoses, treatment, and even preventable death.
In addition, medical records are very personal information. It is a reasonable expectation that your doctor will keep this information private and will not share it with others without asking for your consent first. Breaches of confidentiality are very serious, both legally and professionally.
Exceptions to Confidentiality
There are a few situations when a doctor is permitted, and sometimes even expected, to release your medical information or provide it to authorities. Some of these situations are:
• Releasing information to insurance companies for submission of claims and costs
• Reporting signs of child abuse
• Reporting incidence of dangerous diseases to the CDC or WHO
• Releasing subpoenaed records during malpractice cases
• When a patient has threatened to harm others
These types of situations are specific and regulated. In many of these cases, the doctor will also notify you that he is releasing information and to whom he is releasing it.
After a Breach
Once your information has been disseminated without your consent, you should seek the advice of a medical malpractice lawyer. Though this isn’t a physical injury like other types of malpractice, it is still possible to file a claim. You should also speak with your doctor and ask why the information was released. It’s possible that it was done accidentally, or that electronic records were taken illegally. Either way, your doctor may still be liable for not properly securing the information.
Our medical malpractice attorneys at Bighorn law will help you get justice. We take breaches of confidentiality very seriously, and we believe all doctors should be held to the same high standard. If you suspect a breach, contact us today.