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What Is A Breach of Doctor-Patient Confidentiality?

Whether someone has a health issue which requires medical attention or is going to the doctor for their annual check-up, anything that is discussed with their physician has to be kept between them and their health care provider. Legally all physicians are required to uphold a doctor-patient confidentiality agreement, which is based around the concept that patients should never be concerned about seeking medical treatment out of fear that their private medical information will be disclosed to others without consent. A person’s health is a personal issue, particularly if they have specific health issues they would NOT feel comfortable discussing with anyone else. If a patient discovers the information they shared with their physician was mishandled or shared without their consent, this is a breach of the doctor-patient confidentiality agreement, and they may be entitled to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against that health care provider.     Once a doctor-patient relationship has been established, the physician CANNOT divulge any medical info without the consent of the patient. This is because the more information the physician has about the patient, the better they will be able to make an accurate diagnosis and provide the best possible care. If a patient is no longer being treated by the physician, the duty of confidentiality does not end there. It continues for as long as the patient lives, and even continues after the patient’s death.   When an alleged breach is the focal point of a lawsuit, there is an implied consent moving forward. If a patient files a personal injury claim, this may waive their right to confidentiality. In addition, if a family member or friend attends an appointment with the patient, they will likely be required to provide relevant information during testimony. Although it is unlikely that a patient’s health care professional will be able to share any of their medical information with an interested party without their consent, there are some exceptions that would allow the physician to divulge patient information, including the following:  
  • Physician is required to provide information to a public health official.
  • Patient’s injuries are the part of a criminal investigation.
  • Patient is diagnosed with an infectious communicable disease, such as HIV.
  • The patient is at risk of harming themselves or others.
  • There are potential health insurance complications.
  There are sometimes where a physician inadvertently discloses patient information. For example, a physician may discuss case details with another health care provider for counsel. However, if this conversation takes place in a hallway or on an elevator, anywhere others can easily hear the conversation, this could qualify as an inadvertent breach because anytime a physician wants to discuss details of a case with a colleague, they should always have those conversations in a private.   It is highly recommended that patients who wish to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against their health care provider consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. A breach of a Doctor-Patient confidentiality agreement is a violation of your rights, and we will hold the negligent party liable for any injuries or emotional distress. Protecting your rights is our top priority. A skilled medical malpractice lawyer can thoroughly review the case and recommend the best legal course of action. To schedule a free consultation, call us today!
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