Privacy of any kind is a basic and fundamental human right that must be respected at all times. Unfortunately, it wasn’t recognized before 1948. Still, in many parts of the world, patients aren’t given any health privacy at all.

In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stated equal rights for all the members that fall under the human species.

Now that there are new medical advancements and medical device prototyping that help medical professionals come up with ways to cure various diseases, it has now become even more critical to realize that health privacy is the right of every patient.

Let’s take a look at what any person is entitled to by law under health privacy rights.


Ways In Which You Can Use Your Health Privacy As A Human Right

  • You have the right to remain silent if approached by any person outside of the hospital staff, who includes even visitors and anyone else who isn’t directly responsible for looking after your health.


  • You have the right to wear whatever you feel comfortable in, be it jewelry or clothing unless this doesn’t interfere with your medical procedures and diagnostic treatments.


  • You have the right to have a physical exam or checkup in a private place that allows for reasonable audio and visual privacy. You can also choose the examiner of your gender for certain intrusive or more personal examinations.


  • You have the right to discuss your health issues without the presence of another party or other people who aren’t involved in your medical treatment unless you’re underage.


  • You have the right to get your personal and medical care records read and followed up only by individuals who are directly related to providing healthcare facilities to you. Others can read or organize your records only if you’ve authorized them in writing.


  • If you want your billing information to remain strictly confidential, you can use this right to obtain health privacy.


  • You can expect any news of your medical treatment to be given only to friends or family members whom you’ve authorized in complete confidentiality without the presence of any third-party.


  • If you feel that your privacy is being disturbed by other patients around you, you can request permission to move your location. In case there is any issue of protection and personal safety involved, you have the right to being assigned a secret or fake identity.



It states that privacy protection can be applied to information that can be used to identify a person, meaning:


  1. Information associated with the past, present, and future conditions (both mental and physical) of a person’s health.


  1.   Information that can easily help identify a person as a certain individual.


Here is a list of those who are required to honor HIPAA:


  • Anyone associated with the field of medical care such as doctors, nurses, hospitals and clinics, pharmacies, nursing homes, and other such providers of healthcare.


  • Various employer group health plans.


  • Some programs sponsored by the government.


  • Any health provider with arrangements to any third parties with whom you’re required to share your health information.


Some Ways Through Which Your Health Care Information Can Be Shared And Used


To stay healthy without distressing or interrupting your privacy, your information can be shared only in the following situations:


  • It’s impertinent for your treatment and care, meaning a doctor can see what tests you have had along with their results so that they don’t have to be done again.


  • You’re required to make payment for your medical treatment.


  • You’re seeking best medical care due to which various healthcare professionals need to know about your medical history.


  • You need immediate protection from medical diseases in case there is an outbreak of a contagious disease in your locality.


In the above-mentioned scenarios, your health care provider isn’t obliged to get permission from you in terms of disclosing your medical information to those who can directly help you achieve better health.


Can I Control Who Sees Or Uses My Health Information?


There are some conditions under which you still maintain hold of who can see, use, or share your personal health information


Here are a few examples:


  • It cannot be given to your employer to be used for advertising or sales, or any other purpose unless you’ve given permission through an authorized piece of writing. This must include those getting your information and what they’re allowed to use it for. This isn’t the same as the form you sign for the hospital that lets them use and share your medical information.


  • In general, health care providers or medical practitioners cannot share their own personal notes related to your mental health unless you authorize them to.


  • You have every right to restrict your healthcare providers from sharing your information with specific groups or companies. If you visit a clinic and ask your consulting doctor to not share your information with other doctors and nurses of the same clinic, then they must oblige.


However, a clinic may not always agree to this because sometimes a doctor may need consulting with another doctor in order to decide how best to proceed with your treatment.


Photo credit:


Wendy is a super-connector with Outreachmama who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking. She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses her efforts on developing customized blogger outreach plans depending on the industry and competition.



© 2017, Linda Girgis MD. All rights reserved.

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3 thoughts on “Guest Post: Is Health Privacy a Human Right?

  1. Thank you for this good article. Patient’s and providers alike often do not have an appreciation of health privacy rights, other than urban myths and hearsay. If patients and providers are at hospital medical centers they would be well served to read the institutions Patient Rights brochure the hospital provides to each patient as well as the HIPAA (health data) related Rights posted throughout the institution.

    One right that nearly all physician offices and medical centers fail to meet for patients is your:

    “You have the right to have a physical exam or checkup in a private place that allows for reasonable audio and visual privacy. You can also choose the examiner of your gender for certain intrusive or more personal examinations.”

    The lowest level of violation is seen when exam rooms don’t have curtains, drapes are not offered for intimate exams, gowns are not offered, staff are not trained about entering patient rooms when an exam is being conducted, curtains are not drawn when a patient is exposed, staff assume it is okay to walk in on undressed patients or use patient rooms as a pass through to another hallway, doors are left ajar, doors are opened with the patient in a state of exposure, etc.

    A more egregious violation is that almost all private physician offices and most medical centers hire almost exclusively female medical assistants, female nurses, female techs, female certified nursing assistants, female chaperones, etc. to administer or assist in intimate tests and care activities. In the early 90’s this was recognized as a way to make women more comfortable. Women’s imaging centers, women’s mammography centers, Women’s clinics – all staffed by women sprang up in the U.S. Today there are in excess of 10,000 all women staffed clinics for females in the U.S.

    Is there a similar model that health care has implemented for male patients? No. There are less than 10 clinics or physician offices in the U.S. that are for males, staffed with men. A thousand to one ratio is not accidental – it is intentional by the medical profession.

    Why would the medical profession choose to discriminate so blatantly against the male patient? Medicine is evidence based. Where are the peer review papers that indicate male patients are better treated, have better interactions with their providers, have better outcomes when they don’t have the same accommodations as female patients? Where is the evidence that ALL male patients do not have modesty or do not require considerations of modesty (e.g. same gender chaperones, techs, MAs, etc.)? Actually the evidence is to the contrary.

    The health care industry remains the largest single instigator of sex discrimination in the U.S. Until private practices and medical centers proactively hire more diverse staff (or are sued by patients to force them to hire diverse staff) to offer male patients bodily privacy/modest considerations, like female patients, the “You” above should read “Female patients”.

  2. You have the right to have a physical exam or checkup in a private place that allows for reasonable audio and visual privacy. You can also choose the examiner of your gender for certain intrusive or more personal examinations.

    If only the above bullet point was true as concerns choosing the gender of the examiner. Try being a male patient in need or urology care. It is extremely rare to find a urology practice that doesn’t have 100% female nursing, tech, and other staff, and it is the staff that does all the intimate prep and most of the intimate procedures.

    Try being a male patient and finding a dermatology practice that doesn’t have 100% female nursing, scribe, and other staff that will be standing there watching your genital/rectal exam.

    Try being a male that needs a testicular ultrasound and see how far you have to look to find a facility that has any male sonographers.

    If males have any rights in choosing the gender of their providers, nobody has told the medical world, or if they have, the medical world has chosen to just ignore that right.

    1. I would agree with you on this one RU. That statement is…well… a slippery slope of a comment. You CAN choose the gender of your examiner, providing they have one available. If this is not available, then in the very least, the Doctor, regardless of their gender, should as a #1 rule, be honest, and say before it happens, your Chaperone will be a female. Do you mind that your chaperone will be female? In the very least it will eliminate the possibility for an ambush, or an embarrassing situation to occur. Give the patient the right to agree or not. Then IF the male patient agrees, then the doctor should provide draping so that the chaperon can not see the genitals of the patient, and place the chaperon in an area of the room by the patient, to minimize visual eye contact of such areas, But still be there. In my case, the chaperone saw everything. And never looked away.

      Another case of privacy involves employers. On the “Time Off” sheet where I work, there is a “reason for time off” line. I would say for a doctors appointment, and HR wanted the “exact” procedure. I know HR, and it is full of woman. The woman know me, and other employees. They can say that they practice “confidentiality”, however…. its an office full of woman. Woman gossip……!!! I refused to tell them on my time off sheet, it was for a male ultrasound. None of their business.

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