therapeutic privilege

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The entitlement of a doctor to withhold information from a patient when it is feared that disclosure could cause immediate and serious harm to the patient (e.g. because he or she is suffering from severe depression). In exceptional cases, the need to withhold information may be considered to override the requirement to obtain informed consent before proceeding with treatment. In such a case therapeutic privilege could be used as a legal defence against the charge of battery or negligence. If doctors are intending to invoke the concept of therapeutic privilege they must be prepared to justify their decision. Furthermore, while it was once quite common for doctors to withhold bad news or upsetting information from patients for paternalistic motives, it is now considered a breach of the patient’s autonomy and the ethicolegal justification for invoking therapeutic privilege where a patient has capacity is, if it exists at all, extremely limited.

Subjects: Medicine and Health.

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