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The GMC is about to launch its new guidance on confidentiality. What is interesting about the new guidance is that doctors will now be permitted to make their own public interest judgements with regard to the release of health information without consent for research purposes. This lowers the bar for patient consent which, aside from disclosures which are required by law, was previously the sole method for releasing patient identifiable information. Traditionally, disclosures made in the public interest have been for the purposes of preventing ‘serious harm’ to an individual or society.
Queries around confidentiality raise numerous issues of ethical concern. The debate centres on the balance between respect for individuals’ privacy rights and the public benefits of various uses of patient identifiable information, such as research.
We would welcome your thoughts on whether the GMC has got the balance right. At what point would the public interest in research justify a disclosure of confidential information without consent?