Medical Malpractice:

Breaches of Doctor - Patient Confidentiality

One form of medical malpractice is a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality. The idea of doctor-patient confidentiality is one of trust. An individual seeking medical assistance should be able to do so without the fear that his or her doctor will disclose any personal information, including that pertaining to his or her condition. Doctor-patient confidentiality covers not only information related to the doctor directly by the patient, but also any information the doctor has learned from his examination of the patient. This includes all medical records and all communications between the patient and doctor or other staff working for the doctor. In addition, doctor-patient confidentiality encompasses any medical records or personal information that may be stored electronically. It is the responsibility of the doctor and his or her practice to keep those records confidential, safe and inaccessible to unauthorized parties. Doctor-patient confidentiality is applicable even after a doctor stops treating a patient.

Under doctor-patient confidentiality, a doctor cannot disclose any information about his or her patient without that patient’s consent. Nevertheless, there are exceptions to this rule. A breach in doctor-patient confidentiality can be made by certain authorized parties, such as state health officials (for example, in the case of communicable viral diseases), insurance companies, or in instances of child abuse. If a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed, whether for breach of doctor-patient confidentiality or other reasons, a subpoena will be issued by the medical malpractice lawyer for the patient’s medical records. A doctor is required by law to release medical records under such circumstances as a subpoena.

The lack of protection or disclosure to unauthorized parties of medical information is considered to be a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality and can give cause to a medical malpractice lawsuit.