§ 40.04 KEY POINTS

JurisdictionNorth Carolina

§ 40.04. KEY POINTS

Doctor-Patient Privilege

Although most states recognize a doctor-patient privilege, the federal courts do not. The privilege is intended to encourage disclosure by patients in order to aid in the effective treatment of disease and injury. The holder of the privilege is the patient, not the physician; only the patient has the right to invoke and waive the privilege.

In those jurisdictions that have adopted the privilege, there is wide variation in the type of exceptions recognized and the conditions for waiver. The privilege, for example, may not apply to (1) required reports of gunshot, stab, or other wounds, (2) required reports of suspected child abuse and neglect, (3) required reports of abuse of mentally disabled persons, and (4) test results showing the presence of alcohol or drugs in a criminal suspect's body. The California Evidence Code excepts inter alia (1) all criminal proceedings, (2) cases in which the patient places her condition in issue ("patient-litigant" rule), (3) will contests, (4) malpractice cases, and (5) disciplinary proceedings.

Psychotherapist-Patient Privilege

The Supreme Court recognized the psychotherapist-patient privilege in Jaffee v. Redmond: "Effective psychotherapy depends upon an atmosphere of confidence and trust in which the patient is willing to make a frank and complete disclosure of facts, emotions, memories, and fears." The holder of the privilege is the patient, not the therapist; only the patient has the right to invoke and waive the privilege. In Jaffee, the Court extended the federal privilege not only to psychiatrists...

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