The medical ethic of confidentiality is usually taught from a western
ethical perspective based on the Hippocratic oath. This study at an
urban Aboriginal medical service aimed to explore how confidentiality
is understood in a community controlled Aboriginal health service,
with a view to informing the training of general practitioners.
Twenty-three people, comprising staff, patients and general practice
registrars, were interviewed about confidentiality between July 2007
and February 2008.
Six themes were identified: overlapping contexts of confidentiality,
key sensitivities, sharing of patient information, importance of
consent, multiple roles, and consequences of maintaining or
Perspectives on confidentiality in this community included issues
of social justice, the importance of public demonstrations of
confidentiality, and the challenge of protecting all relationships
when staff have multiple roles. Incorporation of community
perspectives into the teaching of confidentiality may help doctors to
understand the responsibilities of practising confidentiality in certain
Confidentiality is a greatly valued ethic in Aboriginal health.1–4 Different cultures and communities bring different expectations to the concept of confidentiality.5,6 The patientdoctor relationship is enhanced for general practitioners if they understand how local community values influence these expectations.7
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