Release of Data without Consent
Patient data is sensitive personal data and must always be processed in accordance with the Data Protection Principles . It is also protected by the Human Rights Act, the Common Law Duty of Confidentiality and the doctor's professional obligation to respect patients' dignity and privacy. Generally the consent of the patient is required before disclosure of any confidential patient data to a third party. However, it may be permissible / essential to disclose the minimum confidential data to serve a legal purpose to a person with the legal right to carry out a legitimate function, and who shares a similar duty of confidentiality, without obtaining prior consent if it is:
- essential to prevent death or serious mental or physical harm to an individual or individuals
- overwhelmingly in the public interest
- to prevent / detect a serious unlawful act
- to pursue due legal process
Any disclosure without consent must always be:
The doctor has conflicting ethical and legal obligations to always act:
- to protect vulnerable children
- in the best interests of patients
- to protect the confidentiality of patients' sensitive personal data
BUT the safety of the child is ALWAYS paramount.
You must be prepared to justify any decision to release medical data without consent in a court of law or before the GMC.
If in doubt seek legal and professional advice from the LMC or your medical defence organisation before disclosure.