All medical professionals have to be patient and delicate with whomever they treat medically.1 Further, they have to maintain the highest level of confidentiality regarding the private details of the patient. 2
Examination of female patients
Female patients can request for the presence of another female in the room while being examined by a male doctor. 3 This person need not necessarily be another doctor but any female person.4 This is to provide comfort to the patient, who may be uneasy in the presence of a male, and to ensure that she is treated with dignity. Further, the responsibility to do this lies with the hospital management.
Publishing photos or medical details
To ensure the privacy and dignity of patients, doctors cannot publish patients’ photos or case reports in any journal without their permission. However, if the identity of the patient is not clear from such publication, the consent of the patient is not required.5
Details of children
Identities of deceased children and child victims of sexual offences are private and confidential. Any doctor or any other individual making this information public may face punishment.6 Not following this will make the person liable for a jail term of up to 6 months, fine up to ₹ 2 lakh or both. 7
Details of adult rape victims
Making the identifcation details of a rape victim public, in any manner to the media or on social media, is a crime. 8 For example, sharing the name and photo of a rape victim online is a crime.
Exceptions to confidentiality
A doctor cannot reveal any secrets learnt about the patient during treatment. However, he or she can in the following situations9:
- By a Court of Law under the order of the presiding judge
- Where there is a serious risk to a specific person and/or community
- In case of notifiable diseases, like COVID-19
- If there is a risk of a patient spreading a communicable disease1. For instance, diseases like cholera, malaria etc.
- Section 2.2, Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002
- Section 2.2, Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002; Annexure 8, Clinical Establishments Act (Standards for Hospital Level 1A & 1B), 2010
- Guidelines and Protocols Medico Legal Care for Survivors of Sexual Violence, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (Medico Legal Guidelines)
- Charter of Patient Rights, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
- Section 7.17, Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002
- Section 74 (1), Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015; Section 19, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
- Section 74 (3), Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015
- Section 228A, Indian Penal Code, 1860; Nipun Saxena v. Union of India 2018 SCC OnLine SC 3104
- Section 7.14, Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002; Charter of Patients Rights, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare