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Home > Privacy and Business > Medical Privacy > The Importance of Medical Privacy

The Importance of Medical Privacy

Medical privacy is vitally important. Maintaining the privacy of medical information literally saves lives because, without the assurance of privacy, people may avoid life-enhancing and life-saving treatments.

Rightly or wrongly, many illnesses and treatments have some stigma attached to them. For this reason, people may avoid treatment if they are not confident that information about them will remain private. Even patients with insurance may delay treatment until their condition has worsened, or pay for treatment out of their own pockets, in order to avoid revealing themselves to a health care system that they do not trust to maintain confidentiality.

In addition, patients who seek treatment may withhold important information out of concern for their privacy. This may prevent patients from receiving full and appropriate treatment.

Privacy is not only a means to an end. It is an independent good that individuals use to maintain control over their personal lives. In the case of health care, though, privacy is very much a means to improving medical outcomes. People who know they can trust the health care system are more likely to seek full treatment. In this way, privacy has concrete benefits for each individual, and for society as a whole.


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[updated 02/18/01]

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