In Practice

COVID-19 and patient-doctor confidentiality

D J McQuoid-Mason


Given the increasing numbers of ethical and legal issues arising from the COVID-19 epidemic, particularly in respect of patient-doctor confidentiality, doctors must explain to patients how the measures taken to combat the spread of the virus impact on their confidentiality. Patients must be reassured that doctors are ethically bound to continue to respect such confidentiality, but it should be made clear to them that doctors must also comply with the demands of the law. While the Constitution, statutory law and the common law all recognise a person’s right to privacy, during extraordinary times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, confidentiality must be breached to a degree to halt the spread of the virus.

Author's affiliations

D J McQuoid-Mason, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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COVID-19; Breach of confidentiality; Ethical rules; Legal situation; COVID-19 regulations; Advice to doctors

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2020;110(6):461-462. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2020.v110i6.14797

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-04-24
Date published: 2020-04-24

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