NEGATIVE MEDICAL SOLVENCY 246
LOOSE LIPS WILL SINK THE AFFIRMATIVE SOLVENCY
LOOSE LIPS SINK PRIVACY IN MEDICAL FIELD
Modern Physician, March 1, 2000, SECTION: Pg. 38 TITLE: The whole world is watching // acs-VT2001
They say "loose lips sink ships," but most of us are probably too young to remember the meaning of that ubiquitous slogan from World War II. The phrase warned Americans to be cautious about discussions that might jeopardize the security of the country's fighting forces overseas.
The phrase couldn't be more timely, however, as consumers flock to the World Wide Web for health information. They are doing so with confidence that the technology connecting consumers, physicians, payers and other players will protect the confidentiality of user information.
MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS ARE LIKELY TO VIOLATE EVEN THE MOST CLEAR WISHES OF PATIENTS WHO WANT THEIR PRIVACY PROTECTED
Charles Sykes, Senior Fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Institute, THE END OF PRIVACY, 1999, EE2001-JGM,p.125
But not all physicians share this attitude. Doctors, midwives, and hospital residents were presented with a hypothetical ease of a patient who tested positive for Huntington's disease. They were asked whether they would breach confidentiality by sharing this information with relatives of the, patient, who might also be at risk. "A surprising 83 percent of health professionals felt that they should inform this relative even if the patient requested privacy," [my emphasis] Pergament writes. Patient privacy fared only somewhat better among geneticists. Less than one-third (32 percent) said they would maintain confidentiality; :34 percent would tell their patient's relatives if asked; and a remarkable 24 percent would violate their patient's confidentiality even if they were not asked. In sharp contrast, 65 percent of patients surveyed believed that physicians should maintain patient confidentiality despite explicit and direct inquiries by at-risk individuals; only 22 percent believed that doctors should breach confidentiality if they were asked directly; only 8 percent thought physicians should seek out the at-risk individuals with the information.' The paradox, Pergament, noted, is that "although patients, physicians and clinical geneticists operate on the premise that medical and personal information should be kept confidential and private, a significant portion of each group appears willing to violate that privacy, when presented with specific examples." What accounted for this willingness to violate basic, principles of doctorpatient confidentiality? Has the incredible progress of the Human Genome Project fundamentally changed the rules of the game? What ever, the reason, Pergament wrote: "Both patients and physicians, including clinical geneticists, appear unaware of or unwilling to recognize the potentially catastrophic consequences of failing to maintain Strict confidentiality when confronted with specific clinical genetic problems."