Thursday, September 27, 2007

Doctor Sanctioned For Breach Of Duty Of Confidentiality

A psychiatrist engaged by the defense in an espionage case disclosed information to the wife of the person he had evaluated. After his services were terminated, he revealed information to "local, national, and international media." As a result, a complaint was filed with the Maryland State Board of Physicians that led to a probationary sanction. The psychiatrist appealed and the sanction was affirmed by the Maryland Court of Appeals.

During the evaluation, the defendant disclosed a "long history of sexual betrayal and expiolation of his wife." The retaining attorney instructed the doctor not to disclose the information, but the instruction was ignored and the information provided to the wife. The doctor's services were then terminated and he was instructed to make no further disclosures. The doctor nonetheless spoke to Sixty Minutes about the evaluation.

In rejecting challenges to the discipline, the court concluded that the doctor had breached his ethical duties to maintain confidences, which "did not end when [the doctor] was terminated." The court also rejected the doctor's claims that the disclosure was permissible under a Tarasoff-type duty to disclose and that his role in the evaluation process did not create a doctor-patient relationship. (Mike Frisch)

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