Doctor Patient Privilege Lawyers
What is a Doctor-Patient Privilege?
A doctor-patient privilege ensures that as a patient, your medical history, conditions, and related information cannot be divulged without your permission. Patients should be able to tell their doctors private and sensitive information knowing that it will not be made public. Even a doctor's observations and opinions are covered by the doctor-patient privilege.
Note that the doctor-patient privilege is primarily a creature of state law; states will vary on the coverage of the privilege between doctors and patients. The information provided here is only a general guideline and in no way covers every state. Federal law recognizes no such privilege, despite the common usage of the privilege in virtually all other jurisdictions. In the absence of a statute (law) recognizing the doctor-patient privilege, many federal courts will decline to invoke such a privilege.
What Is Covered By The Privilege?
The purpose of the privilege is to ensure that patients can trust doctors enough to give the doctors enough information to treat the patient. Thus, all medical reports, tests, X-Rays, drug prescriptions and any other medical information collected about the patient or medical advice given by the doctor. Even a doctor’s observations and opinions are covered by the doctor-patient privilege.
The doctor-patient privilege, with the exceptions listed below, applies to all third parties outside the relationship. This includes family members of the doctor and patient.
Are There Any Exceptions to This Privilege?
Despite the need to preserve the confidentiality of medical information, there are many instances where the doctor-patient privilege does not apply. Here are some examples:
- Health insurance: Health insurance providers can get medical information without asking your consent if it is for billing purposes. An insurer needs to know what condition you have to determine if they will cover it. However, the insurance company generally cannot forward this information to others without your express consent.
- Health care workers: sometimes releasing your information is necessary in order to provide the proper care. An example would be if you got into a car accident and lost conscious; the hospital you went to would need to obtain your medical information to provide proper care.
- Lawsuits: If medical conditions are at issue in a lawsuit, medical records may be released to resolve the lawsuit. For example, if you were suing for worker's compensation because your employer refuses to pay, your medical information will likely be admitted into evidence.
- Criminal liability: this pertains mostly to psychiatric care. If a patient tells the psychiatrist about having committed a crime or that they are thinking about committing one, the psychiatrist may be compelled to report it to the authorities. Psychiatrists will not always report it because they want the patient to express everything freely.
- Abortion Notification: Some states require that the parents of a minor be notified or even give consent before an abortion can be performed. These laws vary by state.
- Harmful Action: Although doctors are typically restricted from breaking patient confidentiality, doctors are also restricted from causing harm to others. If a patient’s actions would cause harm to others, the doctor may be compelled to break the privilege. The most common occurrence of this exception is when a patient has HIV or other sexually transmitted disease wishes to have unprotected sex with partners who have no knowledge of the patient’s condition.
Is It A Violation Of the Privilege If My Doctor Alludes To My Case Without Identifying Me?
If the doctor gives away enough information to identify the patient, the doctor is still guilty of violating the privilege, even if the patient’s identity is not specifically identified. Patient privacy is becoming an ethnic issue for doctors as social media such as Facebook and blogging become more popular.
What Can I Do if My Doctor Violates the Doctor-Patient Privilege?
If you believe that your doctor has violated the privilege, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney. A medical malpractice attorney can tell you more about your rights, defenses, and the complicated legal system.
Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 08-22-2012 02:28 PM PDT
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