Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hubby can't access wife's treatment details sans consent

Can someone use the Right to Information (RTI) Act to get his spouse's treatment history from a hospital? No, according to Bihar's State Information Commission (SIC) which recently delivered a judgment, first of its kind, saying such an information can be provided to the petitioner only if the spouse consents for it.

The SIC judgment is based on different Sections of the RTI Act, 2005 and also on the oath taken by doctors at the time of their registration in which they pledge to respect the secrets confided in them by patients. The case related to one Anil Kumar Sonu whose wife was treated in the government-owned Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH). Sonu submitted an application to the PMCH's public information officer (PIO) seeking details of his wife's treatment history.

Sources said, Sonu sought the information for using it against his wife in an ongoing litigation. The PIO, however, sought his wife's consent which she did not give. Sonu was denied the information.

Sonu then moved the SIC which too upheld the PIO's stand. While delivering the judgment, state's chief information commissioner (CIC) A K Choudhary also quoted from Modi's Medical Jurisprudence and said, "Every patient should be treated with attention and consideration, and the confidence which a physician receives should be guarded with the utmost scrupulous fidelity and honour."

Choudhary told TOI on Monday, "The doctor-patient relations are fiduciary relations and the consent of patients must be taken before sharing their treatment details with others. Moreover, doctors while taking the oath at the time of registration pledge to respect the secrets confided in them by patients."

In case of minor patients, he said, the consent of the parents or the guardian is a must for such purposes.

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