Confidentiality is a general principle of medical practice. Despite the many exceptions to the rule, it is still one of the keys to the success of the doctor-patient relationship, as Seye Abimbola explains
- By: Seye Abimbola
Doctors are inundated with secrets, with each day bringing a new batch.2 What starts as a simple history often leads to the patient divulging highly personal information about their illness, life, and family. These may be stories concerning issues such as marital breakdown, illnesses, and deaths in the family; or a hidden family; or admissions about drug use, sexual abuse, a long held dream, or an undisclosed HIV status. Patients are willing to divulge highly personal information, and the extent to which they cooperate can sometimes be mind boggling.3 Indeed, one of the greatest shocks in our lives as medical students is the sudden realisation that a patient will tell us everything and almost do anything at our behest.
Imagine that you are clerking a patient with a suspected sexually transmitted infection. You will have to ask a number of questions, including the timing of last intercourse, previous sexual contacts