Confidentiality: Medico-legal Aspects

  • Prof Dennis Davis University of Cape Town
Keywords: Confidentiality, Physician- Patient Relationship, Human Rights


The rules of conduct of the SA Medical and Dental Council together with decisions of South African law courts, make it clear that both ethically and legally medical practitioner is required to keep the confidence of his patient. South African practitioners, like their overseas counterparts, are confronted with a legal position in which, unlike the lawyer/client relationship, there is no absolute privileged for communication between physician and patient. The paper explores the definition of the limited privilege rule and arguments for an amendment thereof. It also examines the question of the moral and legal obligation of the practitioner to make disclosures to a third party or agency. In this connection the paper considers the problem of the duty to disclose illnesses such as AIDS to persons other than those whom the patient has granted consent. In a more indigenous context, the paper examines the controversy relating to the behaviour of doctors who, during the unrest of 1985 and 1986, co-operated with the police in pointing out patients who had suffered certain injuries resulting in patients being arrested and taken to the police cells.

Author Biography

Prof Dennis Davis, University of Cape Town
BA LLB, M.Phil. Crim Dept of Law