Doctor-patient Confidentiality: What Constitutes a Breach of Confidentiality?

Doctor-patient confidentiality protects any personal information patients share with their doctors. Doctors cannot reveal any of this information without their consent. However, there are certain situations when doctors can disclose this information without breaking patient confidentiality.

A doctor may be required to divulge patient information when there are issues relating to health insurance, if the patient is in a lawsuit, or if a client plans to cause harm to otters.

Doctor-patient confidentiality limits doctors from releasing personal information and any other conclusions they have made regarding the patient. Confidentiality will protect medical records and communication between the doctor and the patient.

What Is a Breach of Confidentiality?

When a doctor discloses patient information to a third party with consent, this action is known as a breach of confidentiality. If the patient agrees to share their information, then confidentiality is not breached. However, confidentiality will be overlooked when there are court orders requiring medical information to be released or when this information is disclosed to state health officials.

Patient confidentiality is protected under state law, and any professional breaking it could be sued for invasion of privacy, malpractice, and other related torts. Health insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) prevents doctors from sharing patient information without reasonable cause.

Below are some of the different cases when a doctor can disclose patient information:

With the Patient’s Consent

A doctor can disclose patient information without breaching confidentiality when the patient consents. They may be required to sign documents granting the professional permission to share their information with other parties. Fortunately, patients can limit the amount of information they want disclosed.

The written consent only works for one instance. Therefore, should there be any future cases, the patient will again provide their consent. If a doctor reveals information that isn’t captured in the agreement, this is termed a confidentiality violation.

When the Patient Needs Help

If a patient is incapacitated or needs help, a doctor can disclose their details without breaking confidentiality. When a doctor feels like a patient needs help, they may reach out to family members to help them with the process.

However, if there are documents like a living will or a healthcare power of attorney, there are specific steps to follow before disclosure rights are granted.

Additionally, if the patient cannot make rational decisions due to mental illness or insanity, the doctor can disclose their information if it is needed in a criminal case or a similar setting. In such a situation, they may explain a patient’s condition, medication, and other treatment methods being used to treat the patient.

Court Orders

Sometimes patient details may be needed in court, especially during personal injury lawsuits. The judge might need information on your injury, treatment options, and medication. In this case, a doctor may be a witness and may need to disclose certain information relating to the claim and injury.


Doctor-patient confidentiality protects patient information from falling into the wrong hands. Doctors cannot release patient records without their consent. However, certain situations might require them to provide patient information to third parties, with or without the patient’s consent.

Remember, doctor-patient confidentiality lasts even after a patient stops seeing the doctor. The professional will still be required to uphold confidentiality even after the patient dies.

“If your doctor shares your medical records with a third party without your consent, it is wise to hire a medical malpractice attorney who will represent you during your case. They will help clear any doubts you have regarding confidentiality and privacy.” says Larry Eisenberg of Law Offices of Larry S. Eisenberg and Associates.

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