Judicial and Statutory Exceptions

Statutory provisions may require a doctor to disclose information about patients. In the United Kingdom they include, for example, notifications of births, miscarriages, and deaths; notifications of infectious diseases; notifications of industrial diseases and poisonings; and notifications under the provisions of the Abortion Act of 1967.

A doctor may be required to attend court and to answer questions if ordered to do so by the presiding judge, magistrate, or sheriff. When in the witness box, the doctor may explain that he or she does not have the consent of the patient to disclose the information (or indeed that the patient has expressly forbidden the doctor to disclose it), but the court may rule that the interests of justice require that the information held by the doctor about the patient be disclosed to the court. The doctor must then answer or risk being charged with contempt of court.

However, disclosure should only be made in judicial proceedings in one of two situations: first, when the presiding judge directs the doctor to answer, or second, when the patient has given free and informed consent. A request by any other person (whether police officer, court official, or lawyer) should be politely but firmly declined. As always, the doctor's protection or defense organization will be pleased to advise in any case of doubt.

Other statutory provisions of forensic relevance exist, but they are peculiar to individual countries or states and are not included here.

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