Physician-Patient Privilege Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Physician-Patient Privilege, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Physician-Patient Privilege?

n.The right of a physician not to give any legal statements in a trial regarding any persoanl and confidential information about his patient that he is bound to keep secret.The patient can sue him for any breach of trust except I some cases where the physician can give statements with the patient’s permission.

History and Meaning of Physician-Patient Privilege

Physician-patient privilege is a legal concept that pertains to the confidentiality of medical information shared between a patient and their healthcare provider. The physician-patient relationship is built on trust and privacy, and it is in the best interest of both parties to keep the medical information confidential. This concept has been present in medical practice since ancient times, but the recognition of the physician-patient relationship as a privileged communication in legal proceedings is a relatively new development.

The modern concept of physician-patient confidentiality originated from the Hippocratic Oath, an oath taken by physicians that includes the commitment to preserve the secrets of their patients. Today, physician-patient privilege is recognized in most jurisdictions, and it protects the patient’s right to keep their medical information confidential, while also giving healthcare providers the freedom to communicate information without fear of liability.

Examples of Physician-Patient Privilege

  1. A patient tells their physician about a crime they committed, and the physician cannot share this information with law enforcement without the patient’s consent, except in certain limited circumstances.
  2. A patient is diagnosed with a serious condition and does not want their employer to know about their medical leave. The physician cannot disclose the nature of the illness without the patient’s consent.
  3. A patient is concerned about their mental health and confides in their therapist. The therapist cannot reveal the patient’s confidential information without their consent.

Legal Terms Similar to Physician-Patient Privilege

  1. Attorney-client privilege: Similar to physician-patient privilege, attorney-client privilege protects the confidentiality of communication between an attorney and their client.
  2. Spousal privilege: This legal concept protects communication between spouses in certain situations, such as in criminal proceedings.
  3. Priest-penitent privilege: This concept protects communication between a penitent and a priest in a religious context.