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Doctors want 'sanctions' for patients who post recordings of consultations online

Doctors at the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting have voted in favour of ‘sanctioning’ patients who publish consultation recordings online.

GPs who proposed the motion said it comes after patients posted consultations to social media with the tagline: ‘How hot is my doc?’

However, BMA leaders warned against passing the motion, saying it ‘isn’t patient-centred to have a motion that talks of condemning patients’.

The motion called on the BMA ‘to lobby for sanctions against patients who breach their doctors’ privacy’ by posting recordings of consultations online.

Dr Zoe Greaves, a GP trainee in the north east of England, said recordings ‘can be a valuable aide memoir for complex treatment regimes or to aid them in understanding a difficult diagnosis’.

She said: ‘However, there have been recent reports of patients posting videos or photographs of their doctors online and on social media without their doctor’s consent.’

Dr Greaves said the recordings could be for ‘a baby’s first doctor’s appointments and scan pictures’. 

But she added: ‘Some, however, are far more insidious. These can range from terrible appointments to people posting to share how hot is their doc.

‘For each of these, private consultations are opened up to public comments and critique and the individual’s privacy is undermined.

‘This is not an issue of transparency or of accountability of practice but one of boundaries and trust.’

Speaking against the motion Dr Cyrus Abbasian, a consultant psychiatrist in London, said: ‘We have to bear in mind that consultations could potentially be recorded and could be potentially put on social media. That would make us better doctors. I think the ball’s in our court. 

He added that the motion is ‘frankly wrong and paternalistic because the consultation ultimately belongs to the patients and they can do what they want with it’.

Dr John Chisholm, GP and chair of the medical ethics committee, said the committee had taken legal advice on the issue of consultations being posted online.

He said: ‘The legal advice suggests that doctors do have privacy rights and that a doctor could take legal action to seek to prevent or remove publication but in practice such actions would be problematic because of the value that UK courts place on freedom of expression and the right to publish.’

He added: ‘What I think would be a good way forward would be for us to produce some guidance on this issue because I think doctors deserve to have that guidance.’

But he said: ‘It really isn’t patient centred to have a motion that talks of condemning patients and sanctions against patients.’

He added: ‘Certainly I would urge you against passing it as a full motion.’

The motion passed by a margin of 76 votes.

This comes after patients in Wales have reported falling levels of satisfaction with their GPs, according to the National Survey for Wales.

The motion in full

Motion by NORTH EAST REGIONAL COUNCIL:

That this meeting believes that whilst doctors may not have the right to object to patients making personal recordings of consultations, and recognising that there may be benefits to doing so, condemns the practice of patients posting recordings online and calls on the BMA to lobby for sanctions against patients who breach their doctors’ privacy in this manner.

Source: BMA

Readers' comments (21)

  • Taking patient-centredness to a fetishistic extreme.

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  • Stuff patient centredness where the sun doesn’t shine. We have rights too. Given the abhorrent behaviour some patients stoop to, perhaps we should be demanding right to record consultations to be used in the event of a complaint or lawsuit.

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  • Angry at our weakness on this one. If recordings are made with both patient and gp consent; then so be it (as long as no 3rd party info is divulged)
    However a secret recording by a patient, which is then posted to internet (tagged as me) for all to comment... That is a complete breakdown of 'doctor-patient relationship'. I can't believe we can't pass a stronger reply to this one.
    The statement above that "The consultation belongs to the patient" should make us all very angry.
    It is simply wrong. A consultation is a 2 way dialogue between a doctor and a patient, and we both have rights.
    Patients have right to respect,dignity,trust and diligance, do we not have the same?.
    If this happens to me, I resign next day. Can't be any clearer than that.

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  • AlanAlmond

    Speaking against the motion Dr Cyrus Abbasian, a consultant psychiatrist in London, said..that the motion is: ‘..frankly wrong and paternalistic because the consultation ultimately belongs to the patients and they can do what they want with it’.

    Dr Abbasian, there are two people in the consultation room, they have different roles but both have rights. The consultation ‘belongs’ to neither party entirely and neither ‘can do what they want with it’.

    What planet are you on?

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  • Recordings invade the rights of doctors and even schools do not allow parents to take photos of peformances. The recordings usually does not include the patient's expression or body language, they can be cropped/edited and taken totally out of context.eg. A photo that shows a group of soldiers standing around a kneeling refugee, one appears to be holding a gun hanging pointing down at the refugee, with another soldier on the other side kneeling holding a bowl of water for the same refugee can be cropped and just showing the gun pointing at the kneeling refugee and headlines made. Big difference. Your consultation/secret photo and what you say can also be edited this way.

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  • TBH I wouldn't see the patient again unless they were apologetic whatever the so called rules they can go on with their entitled life thinking they can do what they want without any further input from me.
    The consultation does not belong to them. My words belong to me their part belongs to them and even if it did its not for resale. I want royalties for every view please ha ha

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  • As a consultant psychiatrist, Dr Abbasian almost certainly sees between 3-5 patients a day for an hour each, perhaps slightly less for follow-ups.
    In that hour he does manage complex mental health problems - but ones that the GP has also been managing, but in 10 minute appointments, during the 3 months it has taken to see a psychiatrist.
    Patient expectations of GPs is very high. This would not be unreasonable if we were resourced appropriately and given the time we need to manage patients properly.
    In those circumstances they can video me all they like. But to allow recording and publishing - without permission - of consultations where GPs are working in extremely difficult and pressured situations is wrong.
    It allows patients and government to blame the GP for sub-optimal consultations where the responsibility really lies with the government and the electorate that support them.

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  • Try videoing a court hearing and publishing online - I dont think HIs Honour would agree that the hearing belongs to the individual FFS.

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  • Neil Bhatia

    We all have data privacy rights.
    Patients AND doctors.

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  • If a consultation of mine was videoed and posted online I will leave the profession. I remember years ago a documentary exposing a GP as incompetent with an actor filming him. The supposed GP expert (professor of primary care, 1 session a week in practice no doubt) was highly critical of the GP who suggested dietary changes for a young man with constipation. Yes he looked rushed and dismissive but ffs wouldn’t you be if you were a full time partner in inner city Manchester!

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