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Medical confidentiality and respect for the not-quite-dead

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 post was filed under: News and Comment.

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