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Don't underestimate doctor-patient confidentiality

Doctor-patient confidentiality is a simple premise, but a very important one. It is integral to the medical world because without it, patients would be afraid to go to doctors if they were suffering from an embarrassing medical condition. The confidentiality doctrine holds medical professionals to a standard of secrecy. They can't release information in relation to a patient's medical condition, the treatment they are receiving, and numerous other crucial elements.

This confidentiality is a very important standard, and it lasts for a surprisingly long time. You may think that the confidentiality agreement between patient and doctor ends soon after a patient stops seeing a doctor, or maybe when the patient dies. But actually, doctor-patient confidentiality lasts beyond a patient's death.

Beyond the basic medical information that is covered by doctor-patient confidentiality (such as a patient's medical condition), the agreement also covers any opinions or assessments made after examining the patient or the patient's test results, and any conversations between the patient and the doctor or medical professionals in question.

All of these traits of doctor-patient confidentiality are important, but they are even more important when you consider that a breach of the confidentiality agreement can constitute the grounds for a malpractice lawsuit.

A breach often occurs when a patient's medical records are released without their consent. There are some circumstances where the release of a patient's medical record is allowed, such as in compliance with state health officials or a court order. However, outside of specific scenarios, releasing an individual's medical information constitutes a breach of the confidentiality agreement.

Source: FindLaw, "Breaches of Doctor-Patient Confidentiality," Accessed Sept. 2, 2015

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