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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)

  • "Isn't patient-centred"??! Being "patient-centred" isn't meant to to make all GPs crawling b****s to our patients most exploitative whims, it isn't meant to mean that we don't have basic rights to not be broadcast without our consent, or to even JUST TALK formally about how we might respond to such violations. What has happened to us, to out leadership? When did caring for our patients become complete prostration? We count damnit, we are people too.

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  • While I hope that footage of my consultations isn't about to be the next YouTube sensation, I don't agree that doctors have a general "right to privacy" in our professional lives.

    Think of all the abuses in recent years at care homes etc that have been uncovered by hidden cameras - did those care workers have a "right to privacy"? Should we condemn those that took the footage?

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  • let them. They talk to every one about consultation any way. I am not bothered. I thought if you record some thing you need permission of other party.

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  • The real (only) actual argument against publishing the video is related to intellectual property. (except those publishing pictures to comment on looks - that is clearly wrong!)

    Essentially in a consultation I am paid to provide advice for a patient. I am not paid to make a video for an audience. If they want to pay me to make a video for an audience, they can ask me how much I am going to charge - like one of those lovely TV doctors.

    Publishing a secret recording of my consultation is no different than publishing a secret recording of a film at the cinema. If secretly recording a musical when you go to the theater and publishing it online. You can watch the film and tell everyone about it. But if you record it and publish the film on the internet you are stealing someone's intellectual property.

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  • I suppose in the modern world of professional youtubers and vloggers, using the IP argument would make patients think twice (I hope!).

    It's still disconcerting trying to resuscitate a neonate with camera phones pointed at you- happy days!

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  • @semiretired

    I think you're right to say let them do it.

    Better to have an accurate account of the consultation made public than an inaccurate account of it written on your practice's page on NHS website.

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  • Nah. Most patients won't post recordings of their consultations online. If they did, it would show that they were lying when they said, as they always do, "The doctor said there was nothing wrong with Kryystl-Querci but an hour later she had to be rushed to hospital," or, "The doctor said my [whatever] was OFF THE SCALE," or, "The doctor told me not to lift anything heavier than a cup of tea for six weeks." GPs have nothing to fear.

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  • Hi Dr ... Can I record our consultation today ? ... Yes of course ... Patient : ok I have 8 problems to discuss.... So your saying on camera you can't discuss my health problems with me ... That's disgusting

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  • Maybe all consultations should be recorded by us and a patient should have to tell us if they don't want that. That would be very useful for complaints or when discussing risk. I am on alert when I see a patient with a phone in hand that I could be getting recorded.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    It is noted that specious complaints against the police are greatly down since they started having body cameras.

    GPs should do the same.

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