Ethical Rulings - Health Professionals Counsil of South Africa

The Medical and Dental Council in 1989 formulated guidelines with regard to HIV and AIDS for giving information to persons other than the patient. These guidelines state inter alia that:

  • the reasonable person of sound mind is unlikely to withhold consent regarding the divulgence to other health care workers of information concerning their health condition if doctors fully discuss with patients the need for this;
  • that if after such counseling the patient still refuses to have other health care workers informed, the patient should be told that the doctor is duty bound to divulge this information to the other health care workers concerned with the patient;
  • all persons receiving such information must consider themselves under the same general obligation of confidentiality as the doctor principally responsible for the patients care;
  • if it were found that an act or omission on the part of the medical practitioner or dentist had lead to the unnecessary exposure to HIV infection of another health care worker, the Counsel would see this in a very serious light and would consider disciplinary action against the practitioner concerned;

The Health Professions Council has published a set of professional guidelines which require that practitioners inter alia:

  • Honour the trust of their patients.
  • Are mindful that a medical, dental or medical science practitioner is i n a position of power over a patient and should avoid abusing his or her position.
  • Recognise the right of patients to expect that they will not pass on any personal and confidential information they aquire in the course of their professional duties, unless they agree to disclosure, or unless there is a good and overriding reason for doing so.
  • Do not breach confidentiality without sound reason and without the knowledge of the patient.