Medical confidentiality in the Polish legal system: a real or illusory instrument of patient privacy protection?
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Śląski Uniwersytet Medyczny w Katowicach, Katedra Psychiatrii WNMZ, Zakład Psychoprofilaktyki
Centrum Psychiatrii im. dr. Krzysztofa Czumy w Katowicach
Wydział Medyczny Akademii Śląskiej w Katowicach, Katedra Psychiatrii i Seksuologii
Uniwersytet Śląski w Katowicach. Instytut Nauk Prawnych
Submission date: 2023-02-28
Final revision date: 2023-05-12
Acceptance date: 2023-05-15
Online publication date: 2023-08-14
Publication date: 2023-08-14
Corresponding author
Marcin Burdzik   

Centrum Psychiatrii im. dr K. Czumy w Katowicach
Health information provided by patients in the doctor’s office belongs to the sphere of their private life. Medical confidentiality is intended to prevent unwarranted interference with the content of this information, both by state authorities and private entities. Thus, it is an instrument to protect the individual’s constitutional right to privacy and, at the same time, guarantee an effective diagnostic and therapeutic process. For these reasons, access to the information covered by medical secrecy should be exceptional, especially since this data is highly sensitive in nature. This is especially true of psychiatric confidentiality. Contrary to these seemingly obvious assumptions, the Polish legislator introduces into the legal system further legal solutions that seriously interfere in the sphere of information about an individual’s health. This makes medical (psychiatric) secrecy an institution of illusory nature and violates the patient’s constitutional right to privacy. It also negatively affects the effectiveness of the diagnostic and therapeutic process. The latter requires complete trust in the doctor-patient relationship and, thus, full confidentiality. The article discusses the ratio legis of medical secrecy, the interrelation of psychiatric and medical secrecy, and the prerequisites for abrogating these secrets. It then discusses the relationship between medical confidentiality and other legal duties incumbent on physicians. Against the backdrop of these considerations, legal solutions that reflect the tendency to weaken the legal protection of medical confidentiality and thus pose a real threat to the information covered by it, were analyzed.
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