A Patient's Rights

Manila Bulletin, July 11, 2009 | Go to article overview

A Patient's Rights


Friends and colleagues have been asking for my view on a current controversy fuelled by an alleged leak to media of medical information concerning President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.I surmise that my view is being eagerly solicited since I am both a medical doctor and an elected public official. Maybe, from the viewpoint of my colleagues and friends, the chemistry of my political and professional backgrounds could help provide a balanced perspective to the issue.Let me oblige.At the outset, I would like to underscore that no matter who the patient is, be him the president of a powerful country or a destitute seeking medical attention, that patient has rights. Important rights.Members of the medical community, particularly those in the roster of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), hold these patients’ rights sacred and have enshrined them in what we call the PMA declaration on the Rights and Obligations of the Patient. Many hospitals display this declaration in their lobbies.Section 9 on the declaration’s portion on Rights clearly point out that the patient has the “Right to Privacy and Confidentiality.”It is interesting that the very first line of that section refers to “right to privacy and protection from unwarranted publicity.”“The patient’s right to privacy hall include the patient’s right not to be subjected to exposure, private or public, either by photography, publications, video-taping, discussion, medical teaching or by any other means that would otherwise tend to reveal his person and identity and the circumstances under which he was, he is, or he will be under medical or surgical care or treatment,” the section continues.Based on this provision alone, as a member of the medical community, I am of the view that there may have been a violation of the right of the patient, President Arroyo.It is not my intention to insinuate who the culprit is and what should be done. I simply intend to underscore that no matter what one’s political persuasion might be, one must admit that her right has been violated.The patient’s right to privacy and confidentiality is held sacred not only in the Philippines but everywhere else in the world.Every doctor knows that he has the ethical duty to keep everything that his patient says in connection with the diagnosis and treatment of an ailment at the highest level of confidentiality.True, the purpose of this ethical practice is the protection of the identity and reputation of the patient. But this is also important to the practice of medicine. Unless a patient feels that he or she can safely and securely disclose every last bit of sensitive information about his or her health condition, then we, doctors, would not be able to know what we need to know in order to come up with a sound diagnosis of a patient’s ailment.Some quarters point out that the President, since she is the top leader of the country, has an obligation to make her medical condition publicly known. …

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