Privacy and Health
Updated: May 10, 2020
Although everybody constantly seeks more money, and more time to enjoy it, health (without which none of the former practically matters) is arguably the most coveted currency in this world. Most people arguably do the best they can to seek, recover and/or improve it. Therefore, as much as a healthy person tends to be very open to show publicly how healthy he is, a sick person naturally tends to be very shy or silent about divulging his soaring health conditions; he usually opts for privacy with regards to this matter when interacting with his peers.
However, other than the very close family and friends, a few other people also need to be included to that ‘’circle of privacy’’ for the sake of your own health: doctors and health professionals. In this context, the challenge for one lies in sharing just enough information to be helped adequately while withholding enough to preserve one’s sacred intimacy.
Therefore, especially in the medical world, the distinction between the notions of privacy and confidentiality relatively sheds a little light to this matter as explained by Dr Vivienne Nathanson, Head of Science and Ethics at the BMA (23 Feb 2011):
‘’ Patient confidentiality is one of the most important pillars of medicine. Protecting the private details of a patient is not just a matter of moral respect, it is essential in retaining the important bond of trust between the doctor and the individual. '’
That being said, drawing the line between actually helping somebody and invading his personal space quickly becomes less and less obvious in a world where suing or bringing any sort of legal actions for wrongdoings is rampant. Hence, it is rather crucial to define these notions with regards to their legal implications/definitions as outlined in the following:
‘’ We often use the terms "confidentiality" and "privacy" interchangeably in our everyday lives. However, they mean distinctly different things from a legal standpoint. To begin with, confidentiality refers to personal information shared with an attorney, physician, therapist, or other individual that generally cannot be divulged to third parties without the express consent of the client. On the other hand, privacy refers to the freedom from intrusion into one's personal matters, and personal information.
While confidentiality is an ethical duty, privacy is a right rooted in common law. '’
In conclusion, the perfect understanding of the notions of privacy and confidentiality, especially in a medical context, enables the doctors to provide safe and trustworthy services, the patient to receive appropriate treatment, and the lawyers or legal advisers to stay away from this necessary patient-doctor relationship, and all this, for the sake of health.