An Institute of Medical Ethics working party argues that an ethically desirable relationship of mutual empowerment between patient and clinician is more likely to be achieved if patients understand the ground rules of medical confidentiality. It identifies and illustrates ambiguities in the General Medical Council's guidance on AIDS and confidentiality, and relates this to the practice of different doctors and specialties. Matters might be clarified, it suggests, by identifying moral factors which tend to recur in medical decisions about maintaining or breaching confidentiality. The working party argues that two such factors are particularly important: the patient's need to exercise informed choice and the doctor's primary responsibility to his or her own patients.
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