Yesterday, the Court of Appeal for British Columbia vacated an order that required non-party physicians to provide a class action plaintiff with the contact information of patients who were potential class members. It rendered a principled judgement on physician-patient confidentiality, stating:
Laudable as the plaintiff’s intention may be to seek redress for persons who may have a claim to compensation for deleterious consequences from this medical treatment, such generous intention does not justify, in my view, the invasion of privacy that is inherent in dipping into the physician-patient relationship to discover the names, addresses, and contact information of persons who received this treatment. Each patient is entitled to maintenance of the confidentiality implicit in his or her attendance in a physician’s examining room and protection of his or her privacy on a personal matter, absent serious concerns relating to health or safety, or express legislative provisions compelling release of the information in the public interest. In my view, the judge erred in principle by elevating the purposes of the Class Proceedings Act and the search for legal redress above the fundamental principle of confidentiality that adheres, for the benefit of the community, to the physician-patient relationship.
The Court distinguished other orders in which contact information was provided to class action plaintiffs as not involving physician-patient confidentiality.