Privacy and Health Research. Professional ethics


Codifying the precepts of Hippocrates for current guidance, the Code of Ethics of the predominant U.S. medical society, the American Medical Association, specifies in its Core Principle IV that physicians "shall safeguard patient confidences within the constraints of the law." The Code's Opinion 5.05 affirms that "the information disclosed to a physician during the course of the relationship between physician and patient is confidential to the greatest possible degree. ... The physician should not reveal confidential communications or information without the express consent of the patient, unless required to do so by law." Its Opinion 5.07 insists: "The utmost effort and care must be taken to protect the confidentiality of all medical records, including computerized records"; then it lays out a series of safeguards.97

This and similar codes of practice provide guidance, and they are important as standards to which doctors are held in ethics inquiries and in court and other formal judgments.

(97) American Medical Association, Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, Code of Medical Ethics: Current Opinions with Annotations(American Medical Association, 515 North State Street, Chicago, Illinois, 1997).