Health care providers have the duty to make sure that the information they have about patients is held in confidence. Some criminal activity that a patient may be involved in is the trafficking and use of prohibited drugs. Upon the realization of such drug use, the heath worker is faced with the dilemma on whether or not to report such cases to relevant authorities.
If they do so, they will be infringing on the patient’s right to privacy and confidentiality. This paper is will look at ways in which health care workers can best deal with such situations. Discussion
There are cases where a medical worker is legally expected to breach the patient’s confidence by reporting criminal activities conducted by such patients. In other instances however, the health worker is not obliged to disclose any such information and in such a case, they can be successfully sued for not protecting patient’s privacy.
The practitioner has to consider whether he is legally bound or not (Pauls, LeBlanc, and Campbell, 2002).
Reporting of a patient’s criminal activity is encouraged where the actions of the patient are likely to injure another identifiable person. It is the duty of the physician to determine how much risk is placed on society by the patient’s criminal activities.
In case the risk to the community is high, then the physician should not protect the patient’s right to confidence and should give all necessary information to the authorities. If such a risk to community is low or if criminal activity is on property, the patient’s privacy should be protected.
In order to reconcile his obligation, the health care worker should have an open discussion with the patient prior to making any decision. He should take into account the position of the society as a whole as well as that of the individual patient (Pauls, LeBlanc, and Campbell, 2002).
One of the reasons why the health care providers should not always report crimes committed by their patients is to encourage individuals to have trust in hospitals and for them to be able to disclose important information when seeking medical attention.
In case the physician suspects that his patient is a sexual offender, he should first carry out some investigation to determine whether a person has been offended before reporting the patient (Tony, Sally, Charles, 2003).
Another consideration that the health care provider should have in mind before reporting any criminal activity is whether or not the affected persons are in need of the type of criminal protection that is generally provided.
If not, then the patient’s privacy and confidentiality should be maintained. There would be no point in infringing on a patient’s privacy in the affected person does not stand to gain (Brown, 2010).
Where there are no set rules on whether to report or not to report criminal activities, the physician should be guided by both the ethical principles as well as what he feels is morally right and has a greater benefit. In case a criminal activity is carried out by a patient and a third party wishes to report it, then the health care provider should not report should instead maintain confidentiality.
The physician may also arrange for the patient to receive help such as counseling in order to prevent the criminal activities from continuing without necessarily infringing on the patient’s privacy. This should however be done after the patient has given an informed consent and is comfortable with the idea.
Brown, B (2010). Protecting the Confidentiality of Medical Records in an Interconnected Environment. Journal of Health Care Compliance; Nov/Dec2010, Vol. 12 Issue 6, p35-38, 4p. Retrieved from .http://ehis.ebscohost.com/eds/detail
Pauls, M., LeBlanc, C., and Campbell, S (2002). Ethics in the trenches: preparing for ethical challenges in the emergency department. Can J Emerg Med 2002; 4(1):45-8.Retrieved from http://www.cjem-online.ca/v6/n5/p363
Tony, H., Sally. F., Charles, F (2003). Turning a blind eye to crime: health professionals and the Sexual Offences Act 2003.Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2801798/