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Mason and McCall Smith's Law and Medical Ethics

Mason and McCall Smith's Law and Medical Ethics (12th edn)

Anne-Maree Farrell and Edward S. Dove
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date: 25 April 2024

p. 33211. Medical Confidentiality and Data Protectionlocked

p. 33211. Medical Confidentiality and Data Protectionlocked

  • A. M. FarrellA. M. FarrellChair of Medical Jurisprudence at the University of Edinburgh
  •  and E. S. DoveE. S. DoveReader in Health Law and Regulation at the University of Edinburgh


This chapter covers two legal regimes in the biomedical context that are of increasing importance and complexity: the common law duty of confidentiality and data protection law. Both regimes have experienced significant development in the past generation. As part of this exploration, brief consideration will also be given to a third related and emerging legal regime, namely the tort of ‘misuse of private information’. The central focus of the chapter is the interplay between UK data protection law, the duty of confidentiality, and wider frameworks in Europe and at the international level. A range of sources are considered, including case law, primary, and secondary legislation such as the Health Service (Control of Patient Information) Regulations 2002, UK General Data Protection Regulation, and Data Protection Act 2018; guidance from entities such as the General Medical Council; and academic literature. The chapter illustrates that following both Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, medical confidentiality and data protection law are undergoing a state of reform that may have significant implications for patient privacy and trust in the healthcare system.

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