Doctor-Patient Confidentiality and the American Right to Self-Determination

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By: Joe Bernstein, PhD, MBA Class of 2019

Being of sound mind, every American has the unalienable right to determine the course of his/her health, including the selection of medical treatment with his/her chosen medical professional. There is nothing controversial about this statement. Would you support lawmakers playing the role of Big Brother guiding your healthcare decisions, inserting themselves as the micromanagers of your doctor-patient relationship? Would you approve of Washington engorging the government’s size by employing an army of medical inquisitors to evaluate and sensor your discussions with your doctor? Congress or the States passing laws dictating allowable medical procedures represents a most egregious form of government intrusion into our private lives.

Let me tell you a story about a courageous young woman - let’s call her Stacy. From a small Midwestern town, Stacy grew up in a loving household with her parents, older brother, little sister, and the family dog. Stacy was an outgoing and friendly child, known around town as someone who could always be counted on to lend a helping hand, whether it was climbing a tree to rescue a stranded cat or mowing the lawn for an elderly neighbor. A shining star, as she finished up high school, Stacy’s future was bright, with many colleges and universities courting her with promises of a prosperous future. Stacy agonized over her choice. Finally, with the deadline looming, she chose the state university to remain close to home and lessen her parents’ financial burden.

Stacy was apprehensive about leaving home, yet thrilled to embark on her exciting college journey. Waving goodbye to her parents from her dorm room window, Stacy felt the rush of the many opportunities that awaited her. Throwing herself into her classes, she also quickly made new friends and attended social gatherings. One night, the fun went a little to far when someone secretly spiked the punch at a house party. Having never tried alcohol, Stacy was not accustomed to its effects and quickly found herself overwhelmed and in an unfamiliar bedroom. Several weeks later, Stacy was alarmed when she realized that she was pregnant. For the first time in her life, Stacy felt lost, alone, and confused.

Having made an appointment with the university’s student health services, Stacy was not sure what to expect while sitting in the doctor’s waiting room. Fearing for her privacy, Stacy was uncertain about how much to tell the doctor. Upon sitting down in the examination room, however, she was relieved when the doctor confirmed that their conversation would remain strictly confidential. Reassured, Stacy opened up to the doctor and shared her story. Informed by her honesty, the doctor was able to present several options for Stacy to consider in choosing for herself which path to take. Leaving the doctor’s office, Stacy felt much better about her situation and glad to live in a county where she had the protected, fundamental right to choose.

Surely, you will join me in advocating for Congress and the States to collaboratively strengthen doctor-patient confidentiality by affirming every American’s right to healthcare self-determination. Thus united, we, The People, have the power to beat back insidious government overreach into our private lives. Protecting every woman’s right to choose birth or abortion ensures America’s position as a shining beacon of individual freedom and liberty for all.