Friday, November 25, 2011

When is Privileged Communication Not Privileged? The Law and Ethics.

Privileged communication is "an exchange of information between two individuals in a confidential relationship."

I present now three scenarios and look toward some wise visitors to this blog to provide me with some answers from the legal point of view but also a view of the ethics. ..Maurice.

Suppose a patient admits to his physician that he is emotionally upset and is having gastro-intestinal symptoms because he killed his wife and buried her body in the back yard and told others that she was on a vacation. Suppose a client who is about to be questioned by the police, admits to his lawyer that he killed his wife and buried her body in the back yard. Would the professional standard in each case see the admission as privileged communication and allow the professional to withhold the information to the police or courts that the patient or client admitted? Suppose the patient with symptoms and that same story went to his physician who was both a physician and a lawyer licensed to practice and revealed the killing but desired the professional as a lawyer to provide professional legal advice and, if necessary, defend his case. Could privileged communication still be preserved?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Patient Modesty: Volume 45

Doug Capra, a regular contributor to this thread, wrote a comment on November 1 2011 which I inadvertently didn't publish but which I think is valuable for our consideration of two issues related to the patient modesty discussions here. Read it and then read my analysis below. ..Maurice.

Relative to the current discussions -- In past posts, I've referenced an articled called "Not Just Bodies" which is based upon a study of the strategies and/or defense mechanisms doctors use to deal with body issues == which include not just nakedness and modesty, but also horrible accidents and diseases. The profession knows well about these issues and addresses them. A major problem, as I see it, is this: Some of the strategies they use protect them psychologically but do little for or actually psychologically harm the patient. Some doctors never really "get over" this issue but just put up fences to protect themselves. There are also studies out there using medical students showing how they deal with this issue. There are some related studies about nurses. I think a myth within the profession is that these issues can easily be hidden from the patient by covering up using these strategies. I question that. I think many patients pick up on this and it may affect their healing and/or psychological health. Most of us, medical professional or not, are often unaware of the face we are actually "showing" to others. It takes quite a bit of self-reflection and knowledge to be aware of this. My other concern is what I've started to call the "deprofessionalization" of medical care in this country -- for cost saving reasons. I'm not so concerned with what are called mid-levels (PA's and NP's) But the use of all kinds of various initialed (cna, cma, pt's, ma, etc.) nurse assistants, some with little maturity and/or training, in this country is frightening. Some have no actual scope of practice, work under the doctor's license, and can do whatever the doctor is willing to risk. It's this trend that bothers me most and IF, and I emphasize the IF, there's a tendency for people with sexual perversions (or other psychological defects) to enter the medical field, it would be in this area. And these are the people these days doing most of the bedside care and, more and more, even some invasive procedures.By Doug Capra

First, I agree that physicians, in order to emotionally not react or show to the patient that they are not unprofessionally reacting to the patient's nudity, may take on a bland, emotionally neutral affect which demonstrates to the patient a sexually inert physician. And since the physician is sexually inert, he or she expects the patient to be likewise. And particularly, if the patient doesn't verbally complain, the physician thinks that the current behavior is fully acceptable.

I also agree with Doug regarding a certain degree of inadequate screening of the motivations of those entering the medical field and particularly those whose time and money and life investments are truly minimal and perhaps sexual interest values may play a role beyond the desire to be a care provider for the sick.

So who can be called a "peeping Tom", the title of this Volume's graphic, is a matter open to discussion. Perhaps we all are "peeping Toms" or "Little Bo Peeps" at one time or another, but it never should be at the physical or emotional expense of any patient. And that is why I think that discussion and dissemination of the issues of patient physical modesty is so important in the consideration of the best patient care. ..Maurice.