The privilege that exists between a doctor and their patient, known as a doctor-patient privilege, ensures that as a patient, your medical history, conditions, and related information cannot be divulged to others without your permission. This privilege exists because 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.
Since the doctor-patient privilege exists only in state law, the extent of the privacy provided by the privilege varies from state to state. Federal law recognizes no such privilege, despite the common usage of the privilege in virtually all other jurisdictions. As there is not a federal statute recognizing the doctor-patient privilege, many federal courts will decline to invoke such a privilege.
The purpose of the privilege is to encourage patients to give their doctor enough information to provide proper treatment, so the privilege provides a safe haven environment for patients to be perfectly honest about their physical well-being with their doctors without worrying about whether that information will be shared with third parties. 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 are often protected by the privilege, as well as the doctor’s observations and opinions concerning the patient's physical health. Tis means that the doctor cannot share such information without first obtaining the patient's permission to share the information.
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:
If the doctor gives away enough information to identify the patient, the doctor is still guilty of violating the privilege, even if the patient is not specifically identified by name. Patient privacy is becoming an ethnic issue for doctors as social media such as Facebook and blogging become more popular.
If you believe that your doctor has violated the privilege, then you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can tell you more about your rights, defenses, and the complicated legal system. Also, an attorney can assist you in bringing a lawsuit if you have been the victim of a privilege violation.
Last Modified: 02-27-2015 12:29 PM PSTLaw Library Disclaimer
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