Respect Privacy

Oooh, you just can’t wait to tell them all about it.

That titillating tidbit. The funny incident. All that yummy (or yucky) news about what’s going on in the hospital.

It seems such a thrill to regale your friends and family with anecdotes.

Sharing juicy gossip, after all, is fun.

But as a doctor, you must also learn discretion.

Define clearly the thin line between innocently sharing information – and the deadly mistake of violating patient privacy and confidentiality.

The bond between a patient and doctor is special.

Even sacred.

It’s like discussing things with a moral authority (like a priest), or a legal one (like your lawyer).

Your patients will reveal secrets to you – that they would never dream of telling anybody else.

And the reason they’re doing so is because you need this information – to treat them more effectively.

To cure their disease.

To ease their pain.

To solve their problem.

That’s why they are willing to overcome their natural reluctance to tell others these embarrassing, intensely personal and potentially incriminating truths.

That’s also why your professional code of ethics is so stringent about preserving their privacy.

You are duty-bound to honor their trust, and keep all your patient-related communications confidential.

It is a trust you dare not violate – without the risk of ruining your reputation.

And maybe even being sued for malpractice!

What’s the big deal, you may wonder. But it could indeed be a big deal for some patients.

That’s not for to you to decide, anyway. Just uphold their right to privacy, and respect their wishes.

Social media opens up a can of worms.

Some doctors blithely share photographs online. They unthinkingly reveal intimate details about patients, often in ways that permit identification of individuals.

That is wrong.

Just because no serious criminal case has yet been filed against a doctor for such egregious violations of confidentiality doesn’t mean that it’s okay to do this.

It is not.

There are very stringent guidelines governing how, when and where you can share patient-related information – and the mechanisms to follow while doing so.

Get familiar with these rules.

Follow them.

And preserve the integrity of your position of trust.

Always respect the privacy and confidentiality of your patients.


Have you read Dr.Sivasubramanian’s books on the making of a surgeon yet?

Read the other ‘Desirable Traits for Interns‘ here.

Published by DrSivasubramanian

Paediatric Heart Surgeon and Author - http://www.DrSivasubramanian.com

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