MME Scenario Collection

The medical secret

During deployment, military doctors supervise the soldiers's health. Therefore, all soldiers must regularly visit the doctor in order to asses their health and fitness for duty. During these visits, the doctor speaks with the soldiers and evaluates their physical and mental health. Doctors are also persons of trust for the soldiers, as they are bound to their professional obligation to keep the medical confidentiality.

The conflict context in which the soldiers live especially during missions can be very difficult and stressful. Thus, doctors are sometimes faced with soldiers who consume drugs or drink too much alcohol. This may of course cause unstable behavior of a soldier which may be very dangerous for other members of the unit, namely during combat.

In this case, the doctor is caught between his professional obligations as a doctor (namely the confidentiality of medical information) and his obligation towards the other soldiers.

Source: Adapted from Rochon, Christiane (2014): La bioéthique et les conflits armés : la réflexion éthique des médecins militaires. ( Page 143

Questions for the discussion of this scenario

1. How should the doctor act and which information may disclose and to whom?
2. Under what circumstances (if ever?) can the doctor breach the principle of medical confidentiality?

Page ID: 68
Last updated: 04 Aug, 2020
Revision: 1
Military Medical Ethics Scenarios -> Dual loyalty and/or mixed obligations -> Medical confidentiality -> The medical secret

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