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February 1967

Psychotherapy, Confidentiality, and Privileged Communication.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1967;16(2):255. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1967.01730200123022

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Privileged communication refers to the right to bar a witness from testifying. In the medical context, it would afford a patient the right to bar his physician from using as testimony before a court information obtained in the course of the patient-doctor relationship. Such a privilege is far from universal, and even within the United States only two thirds of the states have conferred it by statute since its origin in New York in 1828. The privilege is granted to promote medically desirable ends, but not to aid in the commission of a crime. Dr. Samuel Mudd, who treated John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Lincoln, was convicted and given a life sentence for failing to report Booth to the authorities. In practice, the interpretation and application of privileged communication statutes by courts is considerably more complicated, and requires the careful balancing of desirable, but mutually exclusive,

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