Virtual Mentor. July 2011, Volume 13, Number 7: 475-477.
THE CODE SAYS
The AMA Code of Medical Ethics’ Opinions on Confidentiality of Patient Information
The AMA Code of Medical Ethics' opinions on confidentiality of patient information.
Opinion 9.124 - Professionalism in the Use of Social Media
The Internet has created the ability for medical students and physicians to communicate and share information quickly and to reach millions of people easily. Participating in social networking and other similar Internet opportunities can support physicians’ personal expression, enable individual physicians to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, provide opportunity to widely disseminate public health messages and other health communication. Social networks, blogs, and other forms of communication online also create new challenges to the patient-physician relationship. Physicians should weigh a number of considerations when maintaining a presence online:
Issued June 2011, based on the report “Professionalism in the Use of Social Media.”
Opinion 5.051 - Confidentiality of Medical Information Postmortem
All medically related confidences disclosed by a patient to a physician and information contained within a deceased patient’s medical record, including information entered postmortem, should be kept confidential to the greatest possible degree. However, the obligation to safeguard patient confidences is subject to certain exceptions that are ethically and legally justifiable because of overriding societal considerations (Opinion 5.05 Confidentiality). At their strongest, confidentiality protections after death would be equal to those in force during a patient’s life. Thus, if information about a patient may be ethically disclosed during life, it likewise may be disclosed after the patient has died.
Disclosure of medical information postmortem for research and educational purposes is appropriate as long as confidentiality is maintained to the greatest possible degree by removing any individual identifiers. Otherwise, in determining whether to disclose identified information after the death of a patient, physicians should consider the following factors:
When a family member or other decision maker has given consent to an autopsy, physicians may disclose the results of the autopsy to the individual(s) that granted consent to the procedure.
Issued December 2000, based on the report “Confidentiality of Medical Information Postmortem," adopted June 2000. Updated December 2001.
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