Exclusive: Ethical dilemma warning over alcohol intake assessments

Assessing alcohol intake has led to conflict between doctors and patients, producing ethical dilemmas relating to confidentiality, according to UK-wide medical defence organisation MDDUS.

Patients may not always be aware of the consequences of such excess alcohol disclosure.
Patients may not always be aware of the consequences of such excess alcohol disclosure.

MDDUS medical adviser Dr Barry Parker said: ‘It is extremely important that excess alcohol intake is identified in order to make patients aware of the risk. But patients may not always be aware of the consequences of such a disclosure.

‘For example, insurance or occupation-related medical reports sent to the patient’s GP for completion may ask specifically about smoking and alcohol history and, under GMC guidance, the doctor must ensure that any such reports are accurate and do not omit relevant information or be misleading.

‘Patients must consent to the release of reports, but they may wish the report completed but dispute the inclusion of the documented alcohol history, leading to disagreements.

‘Furthermore, those with significant alcohol misuse may pose a risk to themselves or others, either in the workplace, if using firearms, or if continuing to drive when under the influence of alcohol.’

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