THE importance of unrestricted communication within the physician-patient relationship has long been recognized in American jurisprudence. In what appears to be a significant departure from established precedent, the Supreme Court recently upheld a US Department of Health and Human Services regulation prohibiting recipients of Title X familyplanning funds from discussing the option of abortion with their pregnant patients.1 The decision in Rust v Sullivan raises a number of questions about the nature and scope of the legal right of privacy in the patient-physician relationship. Although the decision may reflect the controversies surrounding abortion, its implications for the physician-patient relationship extend into other arenas of medical care. Such a decision highlights the urgent need for patients, policymakers, and health care professionals to examine the proper role of governmental regulation of communication between patients and physicians.
This article provides a brief sketch of governmental regulation affecting the physician-patient relationship and explores
Sugarman J, Powers M. How the Doctor Got GaggedThe Disintegrating Right of Privacy in the Physician-Patient Relationship. JAMA. 1991;266(23):3323-3327. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470230081034