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Balancing patient confidentiality and public safety

In line with its Action Plan, EASA has submitted a Working Paper to the European Commission on the issue of balancing patient confidentiality and public safety.

Medical confidentiality is a fundamental principle in the provision of health care services as it encourages the patient to seek medical advice and care with the assurance that the information will be kept confidential.

The chain of events that led to the Germanwings accident of 24 March 2015, brought the board in charge of  the accident Investigation to observe that there might be cases in which personal information should be disclosed in the interest of safety even without the patients’ consent, if the benefits of the disclosure outweigh both the public and the patient’s interest in keeping the information confidential.

This paper, for consideration by the Commission, outlines how medical confidentiality is regulated in different Member States. It addresses the European data protection legal framework, highlights examples of the national council of doctors in France and the UK, and proposes actions aiming at striking a balance between medical confidentiality and public safety at European level, as laid down in Recommendation no. 5a) of the EASA-led Task Force.