May 21, 1982

What We Owe to Our Patients

Author Affiliations

Palo Alto, Calif

JAMA. 1982;247(19):2708-2709. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320440056037

With his report on confidentiality (p 2695), Weiss has performed a worthy service, if readers note but one finding: patients have faith in our professed principles of ethics. Their faith, however, may be greater than our practice warrants.

Some of the difference in the responses of the patients, house staff, and students may be due to the semantics of the questionnaire. The use of interesting instead of instructional beclouds the issue and findings. The essence of the case cited by the author, Doe v Roe,1 is that it is not only legitimate but essential that clinical material be published for the educational needs of the medical profession. However, endangering the patient's privacy is not warranted merely because the material might be interesting. This is in keeping with our medical ethics.

We must recognize the legal position that the innate, constitutionally supported right to privacy belongs to the patient. In