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Professional Confidentiality: A Pillar of Occupational Health

The professional secrecy is not a concept reserved for healthcare professionals. While the patient is the master of the secret, there are legal, social, and ethical aspects that do not cover exactly the same limits. Finally, it is essential to know and apply the exceptions to the secret.

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Essential for professionals and the public, its understanding and correct application are crucial. Medical certificates protect the rights of patients.

Professional confidentiality is subject to strict legal exceptions. The disclosure of confidential information by a professional may result in severe sanctions, including one year of imprisonment and fines. However, there are circumstances where disclosure is not only permitted but necessary, such as in cases of abuse inflicted on minors or vulnerable individuals, or domestic violence. In these situations, the law protects those who report in good faith, exempting them from any civil, criminal, or disciplinary liability.

Professional confidentiality is not absolute. In the interest of patients, exceptions are provided for reporting births and deaths, contagious diseases, psychiatric admissions, and other situations necessary for public health and patient safety. These exceptions aim to balance the right to confidentiality with the needs of society and public health.

Medical ethics and professional confidentiality

The Medical Ethics Code states that everything learned by the physician in the practice of their profession is covered by professional confidentiality. This includes entrusted, observed, or inferred information. Physicians are required to protect the physical and mental integrity of all patients, especially those deprived of liberty or vulnerable. In cases of abuse or mistreatment, the physician must, under certain circumstances, report these facts to the judicial authorities.

Patient information management

Physicians keep confidential observation charts for each patient, which are not transferable to third parties. However, sharing information with other health professionals is permitted and encouraged to ensure the continuity of care, always with the patient’s consent. The transmission of personal notes to other doctors or institutions is strictly regulated to protect patient confidentiality.

In conclusion:

Professional confidentiality in occupational health is an indispensable ethical and legal pillar that must be understood and respected by all health professionals. Its judicious application helps to safeguard the trust between the patient and the professional while protecting the interests of society.

Philippe Casanova

Specialist in occupational medicine and forensic medicine.