The Paradox of Physician Privacy



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This Report examines the “paradox” of physician privacy: while physician privacy has been explicitly or implicitly invoked over the last century to defend physicians against greater transparency, proposals that might cause them economic harm, or interference by government or corporate entities, there has been little comprehensive work done to examine the substance and source of any privacy rights physicians may actually enjoy. This Report attempts to make three primary contributions with respect to physician privacy. First, the Report examines the current state of physician privacy and the legal framework that governs it. Second, the Report argues that physician “privacy” is not, and should not be considered, a unitary concept encompassing a singular meaning. Rather it is a broad umbrella term that encompasses not only a variety of legal protections for privacy, but guards against a variety of very different perceived harms. As a result, this Report argues that in evaluating policy initiatives, discussions about “privacy” implications can be counterproductive because the term obscures the real values, concerns, and policy judgments at play. To address this, the Report’s third aim is the proposal of an analytical framework that policymakers and others may use to consider the impact of various initiatives on the values and concerns that physician “privacy” actually protects: professional autonomy; economic considerations; personal dignity; and practical difficulties.