‘Pa­tient-re­lated in­for­ma­tion must be re­spected’

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

ANY pa­tient-re­lated in­for­ma­tion within the doc­tor-pa­tient re­la­tion­ship is sacro­sanct, and must be re­spected, even af­ter death.

The South African Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (Sama) said this fol­low­ing the re­lease, and sub­se­quent with­drawal, of a book de­tail­ing the last days of for­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela.

The book was writ­ten by for­mer SANDF Sur­geon-Gen­eral Dr Ve­jay Ram­lakan, who was part of the med­i­cal team treat­ing Man­dela in the months be­fore his death.

Pen­guin Random House South Africa (PRHSA) made the de­ci­sion to pull the book out of re­spect for Man­dela’s fam­ily.

This af­ter the fam­ily said it had been kept in the dark as to who could have au­tho­rised the pub­li­ca­tion of the book about the fi­nal years of the coun­try’s found­ing pres­i­dent. Man­dela’s widow, Graça Machel, had also threat­ened to sue the au­thor and the pub­lish­ers of the book. The Nel­son Man­dela Foun­da­tion said there were in­ac­cu­ra­cies in it.

Sama chair­per­son Mzuk­isi Groot­boom said the is­sue is clear: pa­tient-re­lated in­for­ma­tion is sacro­sanct and must be re­spected and vi­o­lat­ing this prin­ci­ple un­der­mines the trust the public has in their med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers.

“Ir­re­spec­tive of the con­tents of the book, all doc­tors are re­minded of their eth­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to pa­tients, re­gard­less of who they are. The core eth­i­cal tenet of the doc­tor-pa­tient re­la­tion­ship is the prin­ci­ple of con­fi­den­tial­ity.

“In the now no longer used Hip­po­cratic Oath, it refers to se­crets in the doc­tor-pa­tient re­la­tion­ship as be­ing ‘holy’. Per­haps of greater rel­e­vance, the Geneva Dec­la­ra­tion, used by most doc­tors in their oath-tak­ing, con­tains the line: ‘I will re­spect the se­crets that are con­fided in me, even af­ter the pa­tient has died’,” Groot­boom said.

Vice-chair­per­son Mark Son­derup said the over­rid­ing prin­ci­ple was to pro­tect the doc­tor-pa­tient re­la­tion­ship in the in­ter­est of main­tain­ing trust, dig­nity and re­spect.

PRHSA ac­cepted Man­dela’s Last Years for pub­li­ca­tion af­ter Ram­lakan ad­vised the pub­lisher that he had been re­quested by Man­dela’s fam­ily to pub­lish the book.

Ac­cord­ing to the pub­lish­ing house, “the book was meant to por­tray Nel­son Man­dela’s courage and strength un­til the very end of his life, and was in no way in­tended to be dis­re­spect­ful. How­ever, given the state­ments from fam­ily mem­bers, we have de­cided to with­draw the book,” the com­pany said. – Staff Re­porter

I will re­spect the se­crets con­fided in me

ETHICS: has been with­drawn. Man­dela’s Last Years

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