Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 261–266 | Cite as

Conditional shared confidentiality in mental health care

  • Axel LiégeoisEmail author
  • Marc Eneman
Scientific Contribution


Because of the development towards community care, care providers not only exchange information in a team, but increasingly also in networks. This is a challenge to confidentiality. The ethical question is how care providers can keep information about the care receiver confidential, whilst at the same time exchanging information about that care receiver in a team or network? Can shared confidentiality be extended from a team to a network? To clarify this question, the article refers to the advice of an expert ethics committee in mental health care. The advice regards exchange of information in a network as a further step in enhancing collaboration among care providers. Therefore, the good and evident practice of shared confidentiality in a team can be extended to a network if the same conditions are met. First, the care providers participate in a clearly defined and identifiable team or network. Secondly, they have a shared care responsibility. Thirdly, they have a duty of confidentiality. Fourth, they dialogue with the care receiver and obtain his or her consent. Finally, they apply the filter of relevance. Hence, conditional shared confidentiality is an ethical justification for the exchange of information in a team or network.


Ethics Information Shared confidentiality Network Dialogue Informed consent 


  1. Beauchamp, T., and J. Childress. 2012. Principles of biomedical ethics. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Beck, J. (ed.). 1990. Confidentiality versus the duty to protect. Foreseeable harm in the practice of psychiatry. Washington: American Psychiatric Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bok, S. 1984. Secrets: On the ethics of concealment and revelation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Cordess, C. (ed.). 2001. Confidentiality and mental health care. London/Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.Google Scholar
  5. Council of Europe. 1997. Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine: Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine. Brussels: European Treaty Series, No 164. Accessed 18 March 2014.
  6. Ethics Committee Mental Health Care Brothers of Charity. 2009. Informatie uitwisselen bij het samenwerken in de geestelijke gezondheidszorg [Exchange of Information during Collaboration in Mental Health Care]. Accessed 17 Feb 2014.
  7. Joseph, D., J. Onek, and M. Goldstein. 2009. Confidentiality. In Psychiatric ethics, ed. S. Bloch, and S. Green, 177–209. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Liégeois, A., and C. Van Audenhove. 2005. Ethical dilemmas in community mental health care. Journal of Medical Ethics 31(8): 452–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Liégeois, A., and M. Eneman. 2008. An ethics of deliberation, consent and coercion. Journal of Medical Ethics 34(2): 73–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Liégeois, A., A. Haekens, and M. Eneman. 2011. Het voorwaardelijk gedeelde beroepsgeheim bij het uitwisselen van informatie in een team of netwerk. Revisie van een ethisch advies. Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 53(11): 841–849.Google Scholar
  11. Liégeois, A. 2014. Waarden in Dialoog. Ethiek in de zorg [Values in dialogue. Ethics in care]. Leuven: LannooCampus.Google Scholar
  12. Thornicroft, G., and M. Tansella. 2009. Better mental health care. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Wehmeier, S. (ed.). 2010. Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary of current english. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Wettstein, R. 1997. Confidentiality. In Ethics of psychiatry: Insanity, rational autonomy and mental health care, ed. R. Edwards, 263–281. New York: Prometheus Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Theology and Religious StudiesKU Leuven (Catholic University Leuven)LouvainBelgium
  2. 2.University Psychiatric Centre Sint-KamillusBierbeekBelgium

Personalised recommendations