Patient Confidentiality In Health Care

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Patient confidentiality in health care is expected. The ability of the healthcare provider to preserve patient confidentiality is an ethical responsibility and is essential in facilitating trust between the healthcare provider and the patient. Continuity of patient confidentiality is imperative so patients may discuss their medical and mental health concerns without any fear of scrutiny. The absence of patient confidentiality hinders the healthcare provider’s ability to successfully treat the patient’s health concern. This case study will review Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California, 1976 and provide an overview of the California Supreme Court’s ruling. Two ethical definitions and two ethical theories will be applied.…show more content…
the need to disclose patient information to protect a third party. Confidentiality is defined as “the ethical principle that requires nondisclosure of private or secret information with which one is entrusted” (Burkhardt & Nathaniel, 2012, p. 526). The court’s decision in the Tarasoff case caused controversy throughout the mental health profession that is still debated today. Confidentiality is the cornerstone on which the therapist-patient relationship is based. Justice Clark’s dissent emphasized the importance of confidentiality: “Until today’s majority opinion, both legal and medical authorities have agreed that confidentiality is essential to effectively treat the mentally ill and that imposing a duty on doctors to disclose patient threats to potential victims would greatly impair treatment” (Tarasoff v. Regents of University of California, 1976, p. 20). If patients are unable to trust their therapist completely, then it is likely that they will not be as open during their sessions, which will make it difficult for the therapist to accurately diagnose and treat the patients. The decision by the court places the therapist in a difficult position. A therapist could utilize the ethical principle of beneficence, defined as acting in ways that benefit another and prevents harm, in determining the best way to act to benefit both the patient and protect the third party. Per the ruling of the court, “when a therapist determines, or pursuant to the standards of his profession should determine, that his patient presents a serious danger of violence to another,” he is required to warn the victim of that “danger” (Felthous, 2006, p. 339). With the court’s establishment of the duty to warn, the ability of the therapist to provide appropriate treatment may be limited because of the potential for breach of
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