Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 107-122

First online:

The Risks of Absolute Medical Confidentiality

  • M. A. CrookAffiliated withDept Clinical Biochemistry and Metabolic Medicine, University Hospital LewishamUniversity of Greenwich Email author 

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Some ethicists argue that patient confidentiality is absolute and thus should never be broken. I examine these arguments that when critically scrutinised, become porous. I will explore the concept of patient confidentiality and argue that although, this is a very important medical and bioethical issue, this needs to be wisely delivered to reduce third party harm or even detriment to the patient. The argument for absolute confidentiality is particularly weak when it comes to genetic information and inherited disease.


Confidentiality Medical ethics Genetics Information technology