When is it OK to Break Confidentiality?
Confidentiality is central to trust between doctors, medical team and patients. Patients have a right to expect that information about them will be held in confidence. The birth of the Hippocratic Oath in the fourth century started the responsibility of physicians to preserve the privacy and confidentiality of their patients. One of the provisions of the Oath lays the ethical foundation for the physician’s duty of confidentiality even beyond the circumstances of medical care. The Florence Nightingale Pledge, which was composed in 1893, was a modification of the “Hippocratic Oath,” a statement of the ethics and principles of the nursing profession. Included in the pledge is to hold in confidence all personal matters. Today we have the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which was passed by Congress in 1996. One of the regulations requires protection and confidential handling of protected health information. We also have the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) who takes an active role against potential violations in patient confidentiality (Oram M., 2008). This paper will consider the ethical implication of a breach of confidentiality with ethical principles. An alternative will be to address the dilemma in a clinical setting. Lastly, the author will address how an ethics committee might approach the dilemma using ethical principles, theories, and a team effort to ethical decision-making.
Respecting and protecting our patients medical, personal and private information is a great responsibility. At times it can be very challenging and there are times in healthcare where specific issues are encountered and personal and private information must be shared. It is the position of this author that preserving confidentiality is of the up most importance. Confidentiality is defined as preserving the privacy of the persons that you are caring for. This would include...
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