Psychiatrist taken to Delhi HC over Breach of Privacy, confidential info
New Delhi: Alleging breach of privacy and confidentiality by a psychiatrist, the 19-year-old patient has approached the Delhi High Court stating the absence of grievance redressal mechanism in Delhi under the Mental Health Care Act, 2017.
The patient had been under the treatment of the psychiatrist at the Vidya Sagar Institute of Mental Health (Neuro & Allied Sciences) [VIMHANS], from 2019. However, the patient alleged that the doctor compromised his privacy during one of the sessions with his mother and revealed his sexual orientation to the latter.
Responding to the petition, a single judge bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh of the Delhi High Court has sought status reports on the current functioning of the Mental Health Review Board (MHRB) and the State Mental Health Authority (SMHA). The case has been scheduled to be next heard on July 22.
As per the latest media report by Hindustan Times, the petitioner patient got diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) back in 2016. From 2019 onwards he started taking treatment from the psychiatrist in question.
The patient alleged in his plea that during one of the sessions, he revealed before the doctor that he had been experimenting with his sexual orientation and was fearful of telling about the same to his parents.
The treating psychiatrist referred the patient to a clinical psychologist for cognitive behavioural therapy on June 29, 2019. However, he continued his treatment with the treating psychiatrist at the same time and used to discuss his progress with the latter.
During a session on August 3, 2019, the patient was accompanied by his mother and the treating psychiatrist had a separate session with his mother. On a subsequent session on September 14, 2019, the doctor allegedly informed him that based on the talk with his mother; the doctor didn't believe that his parents would be supportive of the non-normative sexual orientation of their son.
Then in June 2020, the doctor had a lengthy conversation with his mother, during another session. On June 25, the petitioner patient came to know that his psychiatrist revealed the details of his sexual orientation to his mother, who asked about the same to the doctor.
Stating that this act by the psychiatrist resulted in the breach of doctor-patient confidentiality, the petitioner's right to privacy, the plea stated that this act by the treating psychiatrist goes against the Mental Health Care Act, 2017.
He stated that this disclosure by the psychiatrist of "fundamentally private information without his consent and the potential disastrous consequences that he could face" caused him "severe distress", reports Live Law.
"The process of coming out, that is, of informing others about one's sexual orientation, gender identity, or both, which may include one's family, friends and colleagues is a deeply personal experience with profound implications on an individual's life and safety. A person's sexual orientation and gender identity are intimate aspects of their life and the decision to discuss this with others rests entirely with that person alone….," the plea read.
The counsel for the Petitioner Adv. Mihir Samson, informed the court that the petitioner approached the hospital authorities and asked them to take an action against the psychiatrist for this breach of confidentiality. Although the complaint was acknowledged by them, a joint reply by the doctor and the director of the hospital stated that they wouldn't initiate any proceedings under the Mental Health Care Act.
Following this, the petitioner tried approaching the MHRB, as per the scheme of the Act, only to know that in Delhi, SMHA acts as MHRB. Stating that SMHA was set up under the now-repealed Mental Health Act, 1987, the petition termed this kind of functioning process as in "gross violation" of the Mental Health Care Act.
The petition further mentioned how the petitioner approached the Delhi Government to constitute these two bodies as per the provisions of the Act. However, the Government didn't take any step towards this. Thus, the petitioner sought directions by the HC for the setting up of Mental Health Review Boards as provided under the Mental Health Care Act, 2017.
On the other hand, the counsel for the Delhi Government sought time to seek instructions. However, disputing the claims of the petitioner, the counsel for SMHA informed the HC bench that both the authorities are working even though the arrangements are on a temporary basis.
He further mentioned that retired district and sessions judge Subash Goel was currently presiding over the MHRB, adding that action would be taken against the doctor if a complaint is filed with the doctor.