Medical Confidentiality and Detainees
Medicine and Law: World Association for Medical Law 1998; 17(3): 351-357
A doctor who is asked to see a detainee may be one (or both) of the following; (i) a treating clinician and (ii) a gatherer of forensic evidence. This dual, and sometimes overlapping role can give rise to conflicting ethical and legal duties of great complexity. In the UK, the prosecution is obliged under common law to disclose to a defendant all "unused" material obtained as potential evidence during an investigation. In keeping with this, police surgeons are asked to disclose, as a matter of routine, a full set of their clinical records, whether or not the detained patient has given consent. This legal requirement conflicts with the ethical constraints placed on all doctors registered with the UK's General Medical Council. The UK Parliament has debated a new law which helps resolve the conflict in favour of maintaining medical confidentiality for detainees.
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