Mistaken disclosure

...An insurance company asked for the patient's medical records but the GP disclosed more information than he should have...

A 56-year-old driver, Mrs A, is injured after being hit by a car in a road traffic accident. She makes numerous visits to her GP, Dr L, for treatment to back and neck injuries which cause her considerable pain and difficulty. Mrs A then lodges a compensation claim with the other motorist’s insurance company. Dr L receives a court order asking for disclosure of Mrs A’s medical records which detail the nature and extent of her injury and treatment following the crash.

Dr L responds to the order by sending the insurance company Mrs A’s entire medical record. But a short time later, Mrs A writes to Dr L alleging he breached doctor/patient confidentiality by disclosing the full medical record, instead of only disclosing the section relating to the crash injuries. Mrs A says that some information contained in her medical file was used against her by the insurance company who went on to raise a counter-claim against her.

Mrs A claims that she was forced to accept a poorer settlement from the insurance company because of the information Dr L had wrongly revealed in disclosing her complete medical record. The patient demands compensation from Dr L.

Analysis and Outcome

MDDUS, acting on behalf of Dr L, explained to Mrs A that the wording of the court order was ambiguous and that Dr L was acting in what he thought was the best interests of his patient by disclosing the record. MDDUS also said that while this was an unfortunate situation, none of the information Dr L disclosed was inaccurate. Following discussions with Mrs A’s solicitors, MDDUS agreed a small settlement without admission of liability or responsibility on the part of Dr L.

Key Points

  • Always carefully read any official requests for disclosure of personal patient information – for example, a court order or a request in accordance with a statutory obligation. If in doubt, contact an MDDUS adviser for help.
  • When complying with a court order for disclosure of records, you should only provide the minimum amount of information necessary to serve the purpose, and you should carefully document your reasons for making the disclosure.

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