3.17 Key ethical issues for CAM practitioners: respect confidentiality
During their professional practice, practitioners will be told a lot of personal information about their clients. This information is imparted in the context of a trusting relationship in which users trust that the information they have conveyed will be used only in their best interests and divulged only with their consent. The duty to respect users' confidentiality flows from the duty to respect their autonomy. People cannot make their own choices and control their lives if they cannot control who has access to personal health information about them. While regulated health care practitioners (including osteopaths and chiropractors) are statutorily bound to comply with data protection legislation, all practitioners must regard their ethical duty to respect client information as central and should safeguard users' medical notes accordingly. However, the duty of confidentiality is not absolute and most codes of ethics recognise various exceptions to the duty of confidentiality, most notably when disclosure is required to protect third parties, or is in the public interest, or is required by a court of law. Practitioners need to make it clear that they cannot offer an absolute duty of confidentiality and they should discuss any proposed disclosure with the user.
In particular, CAM practitioners should not contact a user's general practitioner without that person's consent.