In Practice

Confidentiality and fitness to drive: Professional, ethical, and legal duties in the case of the diabetic bus driver

Christopher Wareham


Patients who pose a risk of serious accidents present a difficult ethical problem for medical practitioners. The duty to maintain confidentiality is an ancient and weighty obligation and has many beneficial consequences for patients and society generally. Similarly, the duty of care towards a patient militates against disclosing details that could remove his or her source of income and imperil physical and mental wellbeing. However, in cases where maintaining confidentiality can result in severe harm to the patient and the public, the benefits of confidential practice may be outweighed. While many publications on this topic provide clinical criteria for determining the unfitness of a diabetic patient to drive, the focus in this article is on ethical, professional, and legal responsibilities after a practitioner has decided that a driver poses a significant danger.

Author's affiliations

Christopher Wareham, Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Diabetes; Ethics; Professionalism; Law; Bioethics

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2017;107(8):684-686. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2017.v107i8.12412

Article History

Date submitted: 2017-07-28
Date published: 2017-07-28

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