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Sean Humber settles breach of medical confidence case

Details of client's medical conditions were released without permission

Posted on 28 March 2012

Leigh Day have successfully settled a breach of medical confidence case with the Defendants taking the necessary steps to stop the continued publication of the information and paying compensation for the breach of confidence suffered to date.

Leigh Day and Co were instructed by Mr A following the publication of private and confidential details relating to Mr A and his medical condition in an article written by Dr X, his then treating doctor, in a well known medical journal.  The article was published without Mr A’s knowledge and consent.

Following our instruction, Leigh Day assisted Mr A in bringing a successful complaint against the doctor to the General Medical Council (GMC) who reiterated the right of patients to expect that information about them would be held in confidence by doctors and therefore found that Dr X’s actions did not meet with the standards required of a doctor and brought the profession into disrepute.

At the same time, Leigh Day assisted Mr A in successfully resolving his claim against Dr X and the NHS Trust employing Dr X for the breach of his confidence.  Most importantly, Dr X was required to contact the publishers of the medical journal to prevent any further copies of the article being published, either in hard form or electronically.   He was also required to contact the various medical and scientific online libraries to ensure that the article was removed.  In addition, as part of the settlement, Mr A also accepted compensation for the distress caused by the publication of the article together with the payment of his legal costs.

Sean Humber of Leigh Day stated:

“There was absolutely no justification for the publication of confidential information relating to our client.  The doctor paid scant regard to our client’s privacy and the consequences of publication, for which he was rightly censured by his professional regulatory body.

“In this case, as with many breach of confidence cases, the need to take decisive action to stop the continued unauthorised publication of the confidential information was as important as obtaining compensation for the breach that has already occurred.”

Sean is an expert in many aspects of the law relating to the disclosure of, or request for, information.  He has successfully brought claims for breach of confidence, breach of human rights and breach of the Data Protection Act relating to the unauthorised disclosure of confidential information.  He has also acted for clients, both individuals and NGOs, in making requests for information under the Data Protection Act and Freedom of Information Act, including successful applications to the Information Commissioner and appeals to the Information Tribunal where disclosure of the information has initially been refused.