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December 1966

Massachusetts Psychiatry and Privileged Communication

Author Affiliations

From the Boston University Law-Medicine Institute.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1966;15(6):619-623. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1966.01730180059008

THE DILEMMAS of confidentiality and privileged communication have challenged, puzzled, and annoyed judges, lawyers, and many other professionals for quite some time. In the case of medicine in general and psychiatry in particular, the issues pro and con have been developed lucidly many times,1-6 and the fact that no answer or universally accepted compromise has been reached suggests vividly that no simple solutions exist. The study reported below deals exclusively with privileged communication, and not with the border issue of confidentiality.

The term "privileged communication" applies to a specific situation afforded by statute, which applies to the relationship between a professional (eg, psychiatrist, lawyer, clergyman) and his patient (client, parishioner) for the sake of the latter. If privileged communication exists, then the professional may not be forced to reveal in the courtroom any aspect of his transaction with the individual, unless permitted by the individual, and in this refusal

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