Right to keep identities a secret

Revealing any information can cause a lot of problems for the patient, including being discriminated against.


Published in New Straits Times, image from New Straits Times.

SINCE the second wave of Covid-19 infections hit Malaysia, many have asked Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah to provide information on the patients, including their names and locations.

However, he has continuously refused to do so, only giving general information on the outbreak.

This is the right decision as it will protect the patients. Medical practitioners have to comply with the code of ethics.

There are rules that need to be followed to ensure the welfare of patients — approaching patients with consideration and respecting their personal dignity and right to privacy.

Medical practitioners should perform diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive procedures with exactitude and in good time.

Information obtained in the course of their duties concerning patients and their background is to be kept confidential.

The death of a patient does not release a physician from the duty of maintaining confidentiality.

Revealing any information, such as a patient’s name, age and location, is not only against the rules, but it can also cause a lot of problems for the patient, including being discriminated against.

When Wuhan, Hubei province, was put on lockdown, a lot of people in the province fell victims to discrimination.

In Malaysia, there have been no known incidents, but we have to be careful.

Before the tabligh cluster infections started, a preschooler was denied entry to her preschool because somebody found out that her uncle had tested positive for Covid-19 even though the family and the patient do not live in the same house.

It is for such reasons that patients’ information should not be released to the public.

People understandably want the information so that they can avoid infected people and the area they live in.

In the code of ethics, medical practitioners have the right to disclose information if it is for public good. However, in this coronavirus pandemic, the information will not help.

Malaysia is under a Movement Control Order (MCO) and we are not supposed to leave home unless necessary.

The objective of the MCO is to distance us from one another in the physical sense. If we comply with the MCO, we do not need information on patients.

Let us stop asking the Health director-general to breach the code of ethics that every medical practitioner has to obey. It is their duty to protect patients’ information.

And if the director-general decides to reveal information, let us not discriminate against the patients for getting infected is something no one wishes to happen. They are victims of the disease and they need help.

Let us set aside our differences and fight the outbreak by staying at home.

Jamari Mohtar and Chia Chu Hang are part of the research team at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

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