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Invasion of privacy The tort of invasion of privacy protects the clients right to be free from unwanted intrusion into

his or her private affairs. The four types of invasion of privacy torts are intrusion on seclusion, appropriation of name or likeness, publication of private or embarrassing facts, and publicity placing one in a false light.

Clients are entitled to confidential health care. For example, in a classic case, reporters published photographs of a female client in her hospital room without her consent. A claim for invasion of privacy was upheld. This case is an example of intrusion on seclusion or publication of private, embarrassing facts.

Another form of invasion of privacy is the release of a clients medical information to an unauthorized person, such as a member of the press or the clients employer. The information that is contained in a clients medical record is a confidential communication. It should be shared with health care providers for the purpose of medical treatment only.

Hospitals should not make copies of the clients medical record available to anyone without the clients written authorization to release the information and a written request from the party requesting the information. The nurse should not disclose the clients confidential medical information without the clients consent. For example, a nurse should respect a wish not to inform the clients family of a terminal illness. Similarly, a nurse should not assume that a clients spouse or family members know all of the clients history, particularly with respect to private issues such as mental illness, medications, pregnancy, abortion, birth control, or sexually transmitted disease.

An individuals right to privacy may conflict with the publics right to know. In one case a married couple was filmed by a television crew while attending a hospital program in which they participated. The couple had previously told no one but their immediate family that they were involved in the in-vitro fertilization program and had been assured that there would be no publicity or public exposure. After the newscast they were subjected to phone calls and embarrassing questions. The couple filed a lawsuit. The court held that the husband and wife stated a claim for invasion of privacy and that even though the in-vitro fertilization program may have been of public interest, the identity of the plaintiffs was a private matter.

Many countries, through their public health departments, require that certain infectious or communicable diseases be reported. Sometimes the client is a public figure whose physical condition is

considered news worthy. There are also cases in which information is given out about a scientific discovery or a major medical breakthrough, as with the first heart transplant case or the first artificial heart recipient. If an event falls into any of these categories, information should be channeled through the public relations department of the institution to ensure that invasion of privacy does not occur. The nurse should not independently attempt to decide the legality of disclosing information.

Privacy and confidentiality Maintaining confidentiality is an important aspect of professional behavior. It is essential that the nurse safeguards the clients right to privacy by carefully protecting information of a sensitive, private nature. Sharing personal information or gossiping about others violates nursing ethical codes and practice standards. It sends the message that the nurse cannot be trusted and damages interpersonal relationships. Team members directly involved in the clients care should be given only relevant information about the clients status. Respect for clients is demonstrated when the nurse treats others with dignity and maintains their physical and emotional privacy.


The concept of confidentiality in health care enjoys widespread acceptance in the Philippines. Health care providers go to great lengths to ensure that client privacy is respected. Medical records may not be copied or forwarded without a clients consent. Health care information, including laboratory results, diagnosis, and prognosis, is not shared with others without specific client consent. The practice even includes preventing other family members or friends of the client from acquiring health care information. Conflicting obligations may arise when a client wants to keep information from insurance companies to preserve coverage or form employers to preserve a job. The commitment to confidentiality is particularly challenged as medical records become computerized. Preservation of confidentiality is often in competition with the need to facilitate access to information. In the case of computer access, health care institutions work to protect confidentiality by using special access codes that limit what certain employees can find on a computer system.