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What if my Virginia doctor broke doctor-patient confidentiality?

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Medical malpractice can take many forms. One particularly troublesome form of medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other medical professional causes a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality. Such a breach is a form of negligence that may give rise to a medical malpractice cause of action in Virginia.

The relationship between a doctor and patient is supposed to be protected under a realm of confidentiality in order to facilitate a patient seeking and receiving effective medical care. With the understanding that their medical treatment will be honored with a confidential relationship, it is hoped that patients can obtain the medical care that they need and that doctors can provide optimal medical care. Under a confidential doctor-patient relationship, a doctor should only use information provided to him or her for a patient's benefit, and may not reveal a patient's medical information to third parties without consent, except in extenuating circumstances.

A doctor may have exhibited medical professional negligence and breached doctor-patient confidentiality if he or she reveals information about a patient's medical records, course of treatment, or a doctor's own conclusions after examining a patient, to a third party without consent.

Interestingly, the doctor-patient relationship does not end with a patient's treatment by that doctor. A doctor must honor the confidential doctor-patient confidentiality even after treatment has stopped and even after a patient dies.

A patient who has been the victim of a breach of doctor-patient confidentiality may have a cause of action against the offending doctor for an invasion of privacy, medical malpractice or other tort. An attorney may be able to offer guidance regarding available legal options.

Source: FindLaw, "Breaches of Doctor-Patient Confidentiality," accessed July 8, 2016

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