Balance Between Confidentiality and Duty to Warn: A Case Commentary on Breast Cancer

Leila Afshar (1)
(1) Assistant Professor at Department of Medical Ethics, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran, Iran, Islamic Republic of


Background: Most people consider health information to be highly personal, therefore confidentiality is the main issue in physician-patient relationship. However, there are some situations that the physician may feel that another person's health or well-being is in danger and there may be a duty to warn him. Making balance between these two professional obligations is not easy in all cases.

Case Presentation: This case commentary is discussing about the issue of confidentiality in cancer patients, especially when the medical situation of the patient and the treatment plan could not be concealed from others. By reviewing the physician's duty of confidentiality, its importance and exceptions, the pros and cons of the issue are discussed in this paper. Controversial aspects such as the duty to warn the third party and the value of mutual arguments are also discussed.

Conclusion: In cases such as breast cancer, when a patient is competent and wishing not to tell any information to her family, it is the physician's obligation to acknowledge patient's preferences. However, by shaping a good therapeutic relationship and conducting effective counseling the physician may persuade patient to share her health problem by relatives.

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Leila Afshar (Primary Contact)
Afshar L. Balance Between Confidentiality and Duty to Warn: A Case Commentary on Breast Cancer. Arch Breast Cancer [Internet]. 2017 Oct. 23 [cited 2024 Apr. 24];4(3):104-7. Available from:

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