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.
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.