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January 8, 1910


JAMA. 1910;LIV(2):137-138. doi:10.1001/jama.1910.02550280047009

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Judge Stafford of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, in a recent decision, holds that the law requiring communications from a patient to his physician to be considered privileged does not apply to the evidence of an asylum superintendent as to his observations of or communications with a patient who is suing for release by habeas corpus. He held that the legislature could not have intended the law to apply to such a case, as such a construction would paralyze the government in its treatment of the insane. Even if such communications were privileged; the patient waived the privilege by instituting the proceeding. There are many difficult questions which arise in the construction and enforcement of statutes requiring medical secrecy, but in this case the judge seems to have given a straight common-sense decision. If a patient in an asylum could claim to be sane and bar out

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