The Medical Council is “greatly concerned” in relation to some of the allegations raised in the RTÉ Investigates report broadcast last night on Prime Time, particularly the allegation that confidential patient information was shared by doctors with officials in the Department of Health without patient consent.
Director of Professional Competence, Ethics and Research with the Medical Council, Ms Jantze Cotter, said: “Professionalism is at the core of the patient – doctor relationship and is absolutely fundamental for patient safety and the delivery of high-quality health care.”
“Confidentiality is central to the trust between a doctor and their patients, and is a core element of the doctor/patient relationship.
“The Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners sets out the principles of professional practice that all doctors registered with the Council are expected to follow and covers in detail issues pertaining to confidentiality, disclosure of patient information and disclosure without consent.
“When a doctor discloses information as required by law or in the public interest, they should inform patients of the disclosure, unless this would cause them serious harm, or would undermine the purpose of the disclosure.”
“Doctors also have a duty to ensure compliance with all laws and regulations pertaining to their practice, including data protection,” concluded Ms Cotter.
President of the Medical Council, Dr Rita Doyle, said: “As a doctor, last night’s Prime Time made for difficult viewing. Patient confidentiality and patient consent are key to the practice of medicine and central to the doctor patient relationship.
“Patients and their families should not have to worry about their private and personal information being disclosed without their consent. There are very limited circumstances when a doctor can disclose information without consent.
“Doctors must prioritise their patient’s wellbeing at all times, be aware of their ethical duty and responsibilities under the law in relation to confidentiality,” concluded Dr Doyle.
The Medical Council will be closely monitoring developments on this issue and will be in contact with the Department of Health and the HSE.