Explained: Why is Doctor-Patient Confidentiality So Important?

What is confidentiality and why does it matter? Dr Pathare explains the implications of breaking confidentiality. 

Updated
Mind It
1 min read

(Video Editor: Veeru Mohan)

What is confidentiality and why is it so trusted? Are there any circumstances when it can be breached and what exactly happens when it is broken without consent?

On Saturday, 1 August, late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s therapist Susan Walker publically broke confidentially to reveal details about the actor’s mental health condition. This raised many pertinent questions on ethics and the importance of confidentiality.

FIT reached out to Dr Soumitra Pathare, a consultant psychiatrist and
Director of Centre for Mental Health, Law and Policy at ILS, to find out more.

“Breaking confidentially is a serious offence and has many penalties from losing your license to jail time even.”
Dr Soumitra Pathare

Confidentiality can be broken in extenuating circumstances, to protect the patient or to protect others from the patient. For example, “If a therapist knows their patient will harm themselves or others, they can break confidentiality and warn people.”

The notion of breaking confidentiality to protect a third party or public interest is often misunderstood and Dr Pathare explains that it is to protect others from the patient or the patient from themselves. In both cases, the patient needs to be the one either in danger to themselves or others.

What happens to confidentiality if the patient has passed away? Who gives consent after death? Watch the video above to find out more.

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