My patient the celebrity

My patient the celebrity

As a specialist in my field, I was approached by a celebrity agent to treat the famous person they represent. Following the recent successful treatment, I have been approached by several journalists for comment. What should I do?

The medical treatment given to celebrities has long been of interest to gossip magazines and newspapers.

However, this does not mean you can comment freely about your famous patient's treatment, even if the celebrity has put many of the details in the public domain already. Indeed, even confirming to the media that someone is a patient, without their explicit permission, is a breach of confidentiality.

You should always act in the patient's best interests and follow the GMC's guidance on Confidentiality (2017), which says that information about patients can only be disclosed with their express consent. In general, you should think very carefully before you decide to talk to the media about a celebrity patient, even with the patient's apparent consent.

If a patient asks you to issue a formal statement on their behalf, you should agree the content of such a statement together. However, being interviewed carries significant pitfalls in terms of patient consent. While you might agree general areas of discussion with the patient, neither of you can be certain in advance of what you might be asked or how you might respond. There is a possibility that you may inadvertently reveal details that the patient did not consent to being released, such as aspects of the celebrity's medical history that are relevant to their current treatment.

You should always act in the patient's best interests...

If, on balance, you prefer not to comment, you may choose to explain that you are unable to do so because of the duty of confidentiality you owe to all your patients. If you are working in an NHS trust, there should already be a protocol in place about disclosing patient information to other organisations. You can also contact the trust media team or the MDU 24-hour freephone advisory helpline on 0800 716 646 for specialist media advice.

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This page was correct at publication on . Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.