Routinely now, claimants in personal injury litigation are advised to openly record their examinations with medical experts, particularly those instructed by the defendant. Any reputable expert will not have a problem with this and why should they? In fact, for some years, with the claimant’s consent, many experts have been videoing their examinations of claimants and serving the footage with their written report.
However, away from medico-legal scenarios, there is currently much talk among doctors, almost a fear, of patients covertly recording their clinical appointments. Indeed, in this social media age, doctors have occasionally been horrified to discover that a recording of an appointment has been posted online.
Why record a medical appointment?
Patients may record clinical consultations for a number of reasons. These include:
- It can serve as an aide-memoire if the discussion is likely to be lengthy and/or complex – remember, to most people doctors seem to speak a foreign language!
- They may wish to be able to let their family listen to the appointment in order to clarify matters or to keep them informed.
- Or it may be just well be that they are dissatisfied with the advice they have been given or expect to be given and wish to use the recording to discredit the doctors opinion and/or to promote their own opinion publically.
As a patient, do you have the right to do this?
Put simply, yes.
If you are a business, the Telecommunications Act 1984 requires you to inform an individual in advance if a call is to be recorded. I use that as a rare example of a situation where notifying the other person of your intention to record a conversation is a legal requirement. Of course, this does not apply to a consultation between you and your doctor. There is no legal reason preventing a patient covertly recording a consultation.
Under the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) a “data subject” – in this context that means you, the patient – is entitled to their personal information and this includes the information from a consultation. Once in your hands, it is at your discretion what you do with that data. A Patient is not bound by the same ethical considerations and obligations as a doctor. That means, should you really wish to post it on Facebook or otherwise share it, there is no legal restriction on you doing so.
What does the General Medical Council (GMC) have to say about the issue?
The GMC does not provide doctors with any specific guidance on this scenario, although they do provide guidance if the ball is in the other court and the doctor wishes to make an audio or video recording.
Of course, few people would countenance the routinet recording of medical appointments. The doctor/patient relationship is not just one based upon medical ethics, but also on trust. As a patient, being seen by your doctor to breach that trust is unlikely to enhance your relationship; in fact, it stands a very good chance of ending it.
If you do require an aide-memoire or wish to play back the recording privately to your family, it’s far better to be open with the doctor about that. Just as in the medico-legal scenario, it’s difficult to see what objection the doctor could have.