Home General Violation of Mental Health Privacy and How to Rebuild Trust

Violation of Mental Health Privacy and How to Rebuild Trust

by hrcounts

I spoke to a psychiatrist at the request of my doctor to fill out a form for my employer. That doctor mailed form, wrote a letter disclosing my diagnosis’ and the psychiatrists notes and recommendations to my employer without my knowledge and most certainly without my permission. I tried to reach the doctor to understand what happened when I discovered this. He never got back to me so I filed a formal complaint. The person investigating could not make a finding one way or the other. No responsibility has ever been accepted by the doctor or the administration. No one has told me what is in place to prevent this happening again. No one in the administration is answering my questions about my privacy rights. They won’t even tell me the name of the person to contact who deals with privacy. (I wish I was kidding). I have written to the administration in detail outlining my wishes surrounding privacy, sharing and access to my medical and mental health information. No one replies despite repeated requests for confirmation or discussion. Then I was fired. When I kept pressing the privacy issues, the head of the clinic wrote to tell me that I was not allowed to book medical or mental health care appointments until I came in for a talk with him. Not about privacy, but because he felt he ‘needs to control your behaviour in the future’ and that I might become abusive. I protested to his superior and to the government and was allowed access to care again. He had refused to budge even knowing I needed refills for prescriptions that could not be stopped suddenly and for pain. I live in a very small town. There is one doctors clinic. I cannot afford to travel. I cannot afford to purchase private mental health care services. No one answers the local suicide help line so I gave up trying that. Here is my question. Where do I go, or who do I contact, in order to have my privacy concerns acknowledged and my directions on privacy respected? I live in Canada. I am not seeking any medical care until this is resolved and this is damaging to me.

A: I’m sorry that you have had to go through all of this. Unfortunately, I may not be of much help since I am only familiar with the laws and ethical codes governing psychologists in the United States. However, I would suggest that you contact the Canadian Medical Association and Canadian Psychological Association for guidance. Ultimately, you need to talk to the actual licensing boards for the district relevant to where you live and obtained services. It may take some digging to find the right person with the right information, but it will be worth it if you get some answers.

I’m not sure exactly what went wrong in the situation you describe, but there can be some exceptions to confidentiality. Sometimes if a person is sent for a service by someone else, that person or entity does have a right to some of the information gathered. So if a court or an employer sends someone to treatment, they have a right to get feedback about that treatment. However, that should have been disclosed up front and it sounds like that is where the ball was dropped in this instance. Although, without further information I am only making a guess in this regard.

I’m sorry that you lost your job and I’m sorry that receiving the care you need has become so burdensome, but I do hope that things work out for you and that this challenge leads you to better times.

All the best,

Dr. Holly Counts

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