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July 10, 1987

Homosexuality, Confidentiality, and the Military

Author Affiliations

East Carolina University School of Medicine Greenville, NC

East Carolina University School of Medicine Greenville, NC

JAMA. 1987;258(2):202-203. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400020044015

To the Editor.—  The idea that military personnel—either enlisted personnel or officers—are no more likely than civilians to lie to their personal physicians is an odd one. Although Redfield et al1 apparently have no direct evidence that the military personnel in their study were ever punished for any illegal activities, one must consider certain facts of military life. The military physician is, in addition to being a physician, an agent of the state. There is no confidentiality regarding medical matters in the armed services; disclosure of misconduct to a military physician carries with it the possibility of punishment and/or discharge. Under the prevailing instructions, separation from the US Navy on the basis of homosexuality carries with it the stigma of "by reason of Misconduct" (SECNAV instruction 1900-9D, March 12, 1981, p 2). Having worked on the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) antibody screening ward at a large West Coast navy