May 1961

The Psychiatrist and Privileged Communication

Author Affiliations

Associate Professor of Law, Tulane University, New Orleans (Mr. Slovenko); Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Tulane School of Medicine, and Senior Psychiatrist, Department of Psvchiatry, Touro Infirmary (Dr. Usdin).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1961;4(5):431-444. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1961.01710110001001

1. Introduction  Contrary to widespread medical opinion, physicians are required in some instances ethically and legally to reveal information obtained from patients. The Hippocratic oath, still administered to graduating classes of most colleges of medicine, pledges that "whatsoever I shall see or hear in the course of my profession as well as outside my profession in my intercourse with men, if it be what should not be published abroad, I will never divulge, holding such things to be holy secrets." The Hippocratic oath admits by implication the propriety of di vulgence when it is what should be published.Along with the ethical duty, the physician has a legal responsibility to maintain secrecy, but under prescribed circumstances to reveal confidences. The obligation of the physician generally is to maintain the confidentiality of the patient and violation of the obligation may justify an action for damages for defamation

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