The complications of patient confidentiality.

Few things in the medical world are clear cut. A colleague recently requested my opinion about a new patient they’d taken on, after reading the hand over notes from the referring physician.

Long story short, the patient was 10 weeks pregnant and had been diagnosed with Hep C almost 3 months ago. The referring doctor had stated in the handover that the patient still had not informed her partner of her new Hep C status, and so care and tact must be taken if the partner was present at appointments until the patient chose to inform him of her Hep C status.

So where does our legal and ethical responsibility lie?

To the uninformed partner who is at high risk of contracting a significant and potentially chronic disease (and are we negligent for not informing him)?

Or the patient, whose personal circumstance we don’t know?

We are yet to find a definitive answer.

Food for thought.

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