Friday, April 15, 2005

Caduceus-Blogging Friday

What with the government sticking its nose further and further into the doctor-patient relationship, I found it interesting that here in Pennsylvania, Senate Bill 196 is up for consideration. This is a bill that will provide immunity for any doctor who reports that he or she thinks that a patient may have a drug problem.

What this means is that if someone with an addiction needs medical attention for whatever reason, they will be much less likely to seek it if they fear it could lead to a prison sentence. This was a problem that raised its ugly head when the rage to demonize pregnant women who failed to abstain was at its peak.

Further, there is the little matter of the duty of a physician to maintain a confidential relationship with a patient. The AMA's position:

"...AMA's Code of Medical Ethics states that the information disclosed to a physician during the course of the patient-physician relationship is confidential to the utmost degree. As explained by the AMA's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, the purpose of a physician's ethical duty to maintain patient confidentiality is to allow the patient to feel free to make a full and frank disclosure of information to the physician with the knowledge that the physician will protect the confidential nature of the information disclosed. Full disclosure enables the physician to diagnose conditions properly and to treat the patient appropriately. In return for the patient's honesty, the physician generally should not reveal confidential communications or information without the patient's express consent unless required to disclose the information by law. There are exceptions to the rule, such as where a patient threatens bodily harm to himself or herself or to another person."
Really, it can't get much simpler than this.

This is just bad law, all the way around. What's worse, it's just another chink in the protective wall between medical privacy and governmental interference that threatens to keep growing. For those in the Philly area, Stewart Greenleaf's prints are all over this, and he needs to hear about it. Contact info for the others involved in this mess can be had here.

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