HLT 305 Topic 3 DQ 1
There are plenty of situations that can make the existence of a duty to warn or otherwise protect third parties a valid issue. The duty may arise when the health care provider knows the patient intends to inflict harm on another person but has not made an explicit threat. Another time is when there is a pattern of conduct that could be reasonably foreseen to cause peril to others; this could come into play for psychotherapists and psychiatrists who deal with situations such as stalking, dating violence (domestic violence), child abuse, and elder abuse on a constant basis. Another case would be when a professional has been ordered or authorized by law or special circumstance to take action designed to prevent harm. For example, under section 134.21 of the New York Public Health Law, any physician treating a soldier, sailor, or marine suffering from an infectious disease – including HIV – is obliged to report it for notifying customs authorities for the purpose of preventing transmission through exposure in another country.
Life-saving confidentiality is a core obligation for those working in clinical settings, but the duty of confidentiality has limits. Decisions about disclosures to third parties should be guided by case law and professional guidelines. Case law involving the duty to warn is helpful when evaluating if a disclosure would violate confidentiality while also promoting the values of public safety and patients’ rights and helping injured third parties assert their own claims. A professional code of conduct can guide medical providers in making decisions about disclosing information without harming their patients. There are very few circumstances that would allow a doctor to disclose privileged information without violating their oath of confidentiality. Even if my patient poses a threat to myself or my loved ones, I am still prohibited from disclosing her private medical information, absent an imminent danger that she will do harm.
A duty to warn third parties in some instances. The duty arises where it is necessary to protect a person or persons who are at risk of death or serious bodily injury and where the patient who presents an imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm is unwilling to accept the treatment necessary to remove the threat.
The United States legal system seeks to balance two competing interests: on the one hand, the need to provide an appropriate level of care for our patients and health system beneficiaries, and on the other, the need to prevent people from being harmed by actions they did not authorize. The principle of patient confidentiality is fundamental to achieving appropriate levels of care. For this reason courts have been reluctant to find a breach of confidentiality that has harmed a third party where the patient is already receiving proper medical treatment.
Third parties . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . .. I lack the room to thoroughly exhaust this topic, but the following is a quick run down on “duty to warn” laws in each state. While Dr. _ can be sued by Mr. _, there may also be statutory law exceptions.
Health care providers have a duty of confidentiality to their patients. This duty is vital to their patients’ well-being and ensures that they will seek medical treatment for themselves and for members of their families. To ensure this confidentiality, providers must strictly adhere to certain protocols in order to maintain the patient’s trust. It is necessary for providers to inform patients about the importance of maintaining confidentiality and the severe legal ramifications should any misuse of confidential information be discovered.
What are the limits of patient confidentiality? Are there situations in which a duty to warn or otherwise protect third parties might exist? Provide a rationale for your position.