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April 28, 2015

Ethical Implications of Patients and Families Secretly Recording Conversations With Physicians

Author Affiliations
  • 1School of Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
  • 2Department of Medicine and Center for Medical Ethics & Humanities, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
  • 3Department of Neurosurgery, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio
JAMA. 2015;313(16):1615-1616. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.2424

With recent advances in technology, smartphones can become recording devices with the touch of a button. This technological capability gives patients and their families the ability to easily and surreptitiously record conversations with physicians. The frequency of such recordings or whether they even occur is unknown. The ubiquity of smartphones, however, suggests the potential for secret recordings to occur. As of January 2014, 58% of Americans owned a smartphone, including 83% of young adults.1 Although recording conversations with physicians may provide some benefit for patients and their families, secret recordings can undermine patient-physician relationships and ultimately affect the provision of health care.

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