HOD, Hospital Director must know nature of sickness, treatment of Patient: Delhi HC holds exception in confidentiality
New Delhi: "In the medical field, whenever treatments are given by doctors, the Head of the Department and the Director of the Institution should also know the nature of the sickness and the nature of the treatment being given to a patient," the Delhi High Court has recently ruled opining that "this is for the welfare of the patient".
While listening to a plea by a minor patient's mother seeking confidentiality regarding the details of illness and treatment given to her son, the division bench comprising of the Chief Justice and Justice Jasmeet Singh ruled, "It ought to be kept in mind that to ensure whether the treatment is going on in correct direction or not, it has to be monitored by the Head of the Department and the Director of the IHBAS."
The case concerned the petitioner's minor son, who is undergoing treatment at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences, New Delhi. Having feared that the confidential information with regard to the medical treatment and the sickness of the patient could be shared with persons other than the treating doctors, the petitioner, i.e. the mother of the patient moved the High Court.
The case was first considered by a single judge bench, where before the learned single judge the counsel on the behalf of the treating hospital assured the patient's mother and even gave an undertaking that apart from the team of treating doctors, the Head of the Department, as also, the Director, who is also a psychiatrist, no one else is permitted to access the record of the patient and that the file record has also been maintained securely by the treating doctors.
However, dissatisfied with the proceedings of the single judge bench, before whom the case is still pending, the petitioner approached the division bench seeking absolute confidentiality regarding the illness and treatment of her son.
The counsel for the petitioner placed reliance upon Section 5 and Section 23 of the Mental Health Care Act, 2017, and the Supreme Court judgment in Justice K.S.Puttaswamy (Retd.) vs. Union of India & Ors.,(2017) 10 SCC 1.
It was also submitted on the behalf of the petitioner, that the information with regard to medical treatment taken by the patient and the sickness from which the patient is suffering, should not be shared with anyone else except the doctors of IHBAS who are treating the patient.
After perusing the details of the case, the division bench mentioned that, "it appears that the information with regard to sickness from which the patient is suffering and the treatment which he is taking is not going to be shared by the respondents with any third party."
Finally, the Court also addressed the question whether only the doctors who are giving treatment should know or the Head of the Department and the Director of the Institution should also know the nature of illness and the treatment given to the patient.
On this, the High Court bench referred to Section 23(2)(b) of the Mental Health Care Act, 2017. The mentioned section stated that the health professionals providing care or treatment to a person with mental illness have a duty to keep all such information confidential which has been obtained during care or treatment. However, the section also mentioned a few exceptions such as, "release of information to other mental health professionals and other health professionals to enable them to provide care and treatment to the person with mental illness."
Pointing out the exception mentioned in the Mental Health Care Act, the division bench observed,
"An exception has been carved out in the Act itself so that proper care and treatment could be provided to the person with mental illness. In our view also, it ought to be kept in mind that the Head of the Department and the Director of IHBAS ought to know the nature of sickness and the treatment of the patient. This is for the welfare of the patient."
"Sometimes, the doctor, who is giving treatment may also require consultation with the Head of the Department and Director of the Institution. This consultation is not just for nothing. On the contrary, such consultation may prove helpful in giving treatment of the patient," further noted the court.
The judgment also used the example of the lawyer to explain the matter in a better way. "It is like in the case of lawyer's argument; whenever, main lawyer is arguing the case, he/she is always taking assistance from the other junior lawyers associated with him/her and vice versa" observed the court.
"Therefore, in medical field also whenever treatments are given by a particular doctor or doctors, the Head of the Department and the Director of the Institution should also know the nature of the sickness and the nature of the treatment being given to a patient," further added the judgment dated May 03.05.2021.
Opining that the single judge bench has committed no error, the division bench also directed the treating hospital to share the details of the illness and treatment procedure of the patient to any third party except for the head of the department and the director of the hospital.
To view the original High Court order, click on the link below.