Professional Secrecy of a Doc
It is an implied term of contract between the doctor and his patient. The doctor is obliged to keep secret, all that he comes to know concerning the patient in the course of his professional work. Its disclosure would be a failure of trust and confidence. The patient can sue the doctor for damages if the disclosure is voluntary, has resulted in harm to the patient and is not in the interest of the public.
It is a statement made beneficial upon-any subject matter by a doctor to the concerned authority, due to his duty to protect the/interests of the community or of the State. To be privileged, the communication must he made to a person having interest in it, or in reference of which he has a duty. If made to more than one person, or to a person who has not a direct interest in it the plea of privilege fails. The doctor should first persuade the patient to obtain his consent before notifying the proper authority. If the doctor discloses professional secrets for the purpose of protecting the interest of the community, he will not be liable to damages.
The following points may he noted :
- A doctor should not discuss the illness of his patient with others without the consent of the patient.
- A doctor should not answer any enquiry by third parties even when enquired by near relatives of the patient either with regard to the nature of the illness or with regard to any subsequent effect of such illness on the patient without the consent of' the patient.
- If the patient is major, die doctor should not disclose any facts about the illness without his consent to parents or relatives even though they may be paying the doctor's fees. In the case of a minor or an insane person, guardians or parents should be informed of the nature of the illness.
- A doctor should not disclose any information about the illness of his patient without the consent of the patient even when requested by a public or statutory body, except in case of noticeable diseases. If the patient is a minor or insane, consent of the guardian should be taken.
- Even in the case of husband and wife, the facts relating to the nature of illness of the one, must not be disclosed to the other, without the consent of the concerned person.
- In divorce and nullity cases, no information should be given without getting the consent of the person concerned,
- When a domestic servant is examined at the request of the master, the doctor should not disclose any facts about the illness to the master without the consent of the servant, even though the master is paying the fees.
- The medical officer of a firm or factory should not disclose the result of his examination of an employee to the employers without the consent of the employee.
- When a doctor examines a Government servant on behalf of the Government, he cannot disclose the nature of illness to the Government without the patient's consent.
- Medical officers in Government service are also hound by the code of professional secrecy, even when the patient is treated free.
- A person in police custody as an under trial prisoner has the right not to permit the doctor who has examined him. to disclose the nature of his illness to any person. If a person is convicted, he has no such right and the doctor can disclose the result to the authorities.
- The medical examination for taking out life insurance policy is a voluntary act by the examinee, and therefore consent to the disclosure of the finding may be taken as implied. A doctor should not give any information to an insurance company about a person who has consulted him before, without the patient's consent. Any information regarding a dead person may be given only, after obtaining the consent from the nearest relative.
- In reporting a case in any medical journal, care should be taken that patient's identify is not revealed from the case notes or photographs.
- In the examination of a dead body certain facts may be found, the disclosure of which may affect the reputation of the deceased or cause mental suffering to his relatives, and as such, the doctor should maintain secrecy.
Duties of Doctors in General
- A doctor must always maintain the highest standards of professional conduct.
- A doctor must practice his profession uninfluenced by motives of profit.
The following practices are deemed unethical:
1. Any self advertisement except such as is expressly authorized by the national code of medical ethics;
2. Collaborate in any form of medical service in which the doctor does not have professional independence;
3. Receiving any money in connection with services rendered to a patient other than a proper professional fee, even with the knowledge of the patient.
- Any act, or advice which could weaken physical or mental resistance of a human being may be used only in his interest.
- A doctor is advised to use great caution in divulging discoveries or new techniques of treatment.
- A doctor should certify or testify only to that which he has personally verified.