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Breaking Confidentiality

Should physicians break the scared honor of confidentiality between themselves and their patient if that patient has serious genetic conditions that could be a risk for other members of their family? An essay on the morality of this subject.

With thousands of advancements in the medical field, doctors now have the power to treat illness that killed, afflictions that couldn’t be healed and prescribe treatments to lessen the pain a patient feels. But does this “power” extend to breaking a bond of trust? Thomas H. Murray, PhD from Hastings Centers said, “In medicine, doctors can do far more than they could in the past. Every time you give those kinds of power, they come with difficult situations and tough ethical choices.” An example of these ethical choices: breaking physician/patient confidentiality for the sake of the patient or their family. Patients have the right to protect the prognosis of their illness for the sake of their family, but because the advancements in medicine have increased drastically, doctors are going against this. This has become one of the most discussed ethical problem in the medical field. Physicians do not acquire the right to share heretical information with a patient’s family because it breaks the confidentiality between the patient and physician and it is an invasion of the patient’s privacy.

Patients have the right of whether they want to reveal the prognosis of their condition, and it is an invasion of their privacy to break that oath of confidentiality between physicians and patients. A reason for not revealing the results is that they will not want to deal with the initial reactions from their relatives. Taken from www.cancer.net , the initial reaction towards positive tests results included: grief, anger, anxiety, depression, guilt for carrying a hereditary condition and possibly passing it on to other family members, and fear of discrimination. Patients wouldn’t want to subject themselves to the stress they feel over the results and add to the growing stress they feel over being sick and dealing with their condition. The easier option would be to wait to an appropriate time when the patient is ready. In addition to this, for doctors to break the oath of secrecy between them and their patient is disrespectful and an invasion towards the patient. Patients will feel more comfortable and more at ease if they know that they have a bond of trust with their doctor; it makes the situation that they’re faced with a little more bearable when they can rely on that trust. For physicians to go around the patient and break that trust, because they feel that it would be to the benefit of the patient’s family and not the patient themselves, is highly disrespectful and hurtful to the patient, going against the century-old tradition of trust. As a result of both of these statements, it is the patient’s choice on whether they share their prognosis, not the physician’s, and whether the patient chooses to include their family.

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