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Medical confidentiality and respect for the not-quite-dead

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Warning: This post was published more than 11 years ago.

I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!

But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:

  • My views might have changed in the 11 years since I wrote this post.
  • This post might use language in ways which I would now consider inappropriate or offensive.
  • Factual information might be outdated.
  • Links might be broken; embedded material might not appear properly.

Many thanks for your understanding.

Prof Roger Williams, George Best’s consultant, has been giving regular updates on his status and even details of his treatment. I can’t understand how this is not breaking doctor-patient confidentiality. Best is unconcious and has been for some time, so he cannot have given his consent for details of his treatment to be circulated, and the consent of relatives would not be acceptable in this situation. The only possible way that I can see this being organised would be a long-standing agreement between Best and his consultant that the consultant would be allowed to discuss his case with the media, but I’m not entirely sure how watertight such an agreement would appear to be in a fluid situation.

I’m certianly not calling into question the Professor’s professionalism, but I’m just a little confused as to how this situation doesn’t break a fundament of medical ethics.

On a not dissimilar topic, it’s interesting to read that Jeremy Thompson and his team had some difficulty deciding whether it was appropriate to air comments like this:

“I know this may be a bit cold but I can’t feel sorry for George Best. No one made him drink and he knows what too much can do.”

I don’t even really see why there’s a debate to be had – the man’s very ill, and so surely its only appropriate to explore the reasons for that illness, which happen to be very controversial. Perhaps these comments could be seen as insensitive immediately following Best’s death, but, at last check, he was still alive. Maybe the above comment doesn’t take into account that alcoholism is an addictive illness, but, whether one agrees with the comment or not, it’s a valid point of view – and what’s the point of programmes airing viewpoints if they are only going to pick the ‘nice’ ones? It’s an interesting debate to have I guess, but I see no problem with the comment.

This 750th post was filed under: News and Comment.






More posts worth reading

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What I’ve been reading this month (published 6th February 2017)

What I’ve been reading this month (published 31st December 2016)

Guardian-Reading Liberal Wet (published 22nd December 2004)

Luv and war at 30,000 feet (published 14th December 2012)

HP Support Blog: Refund success (published 20th November 2006)

Photo-a-day 90: Edinburgh Castle and Ross Fountain (published 30th March 2012)


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