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May 17, 1985

Media, patient confidentiality: compatible?

JAMA. 1985;253(19):2813-2819. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03350430023003

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When William C. DeVries, MD, first proposed putting an artificial heart in a human in 1981, he was—in his own words—"stunned" when a surgeon he greatly admired called it (in print) a ridiculous idea that should never be done. Four years and four patients later, DeVries has been simultaneously hailed as a medical pioneer and castigated for conducting research in a "circuslike" atmosphere.

In a recent interview with JAMA MEDICAL NEWS, DeVries talked about his views on the release of medical information through the nonmedical press, how widespread publicity may affect the outcome of a medical experiment, and whether such publicity breaches the traditional confidentiality of the patient-physician relationship.

In a recent speech to newspaper editors in Washington, DC, DeVries had said: "Many doctors maintain a steadfast refusal to talk with the [news] media about individual cases because they are convinced it invades the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. They