As a GP you have a duty not to disclose confidential or personal information, unless you have your patient’s consent or the disclosure is permitted by law.
In general, a patient’s consent is required to release confidential medical information to the Gardaí.
There are, however, certain limited circumstances where the public interest in disclosing information outweighs the patient’s interest in preserving confidentiality, or the disclosure is required by law.
Because of the additional safeguards the MOU affords, if appropriate, the MOU should be the preferred method of release to the Gardaí.
Any request for release of information to the Gardaí under the MOU should be notified to the HSE Office of Legal Services.
During a busy afternoon surgery, you are informed that a member of An Garda Síochána is at reception and wants to speak to you. The Garda is seeking a copy of the clinical records of your patient, who is being held in custody. The Garda explains that the patient has allegedly committed a serious crime, which has resulted in harm to another person.
If the Garda does not have a Court Order and there is no immediate threat to anyone, it would be reasonable to refuse the request and inform the Gardaí accordingly. The refusal should be documented in the notes. If the patient’s consent is not forthcoming, the notes should not be released, unless the Gardaí produce a Court Order directing release of the notes.