Professional confidentiality of health care and social services personnel

Patients should be able to discuss their mental health problems openly with the person in charge of their treatment. The personnel in health care and social services must sign a confidentiality agreement. They cannot disclose your medical records to anyone without your consent. You have the right to speak confidentially at occupational health care, health care centres and all other health service centres. In case you have reason to suspect that your information has been illegally disclosed, you have the right to report it to the police.

Health care and social services personnel are allowed to break professional confidentiality only with children under the age of 18 or if they come to know of a crime being planned. The Child Protection Act applies to the first case and the Criminal Law to the second. According to Chapter 15, §10 of the Criminal Law, anyone who knows that a felony is being planned must inform the authorities or the person under criminal threat. This section very rarely has anything to do with mental health issues.

Children under 18 years old are protected by the Child Protection Act. Under certain circumstances, the Child Protection Act will prevail over decrees concerning confidentiality. §40 of the law in question obliges social and health care workers to report child services regardless of confidentiality provisions, in case the child’s need for treatment and care, circumstances endangering his/ her development or the behaviour of the child provide that the need for protecting the child is determined. Social or health care workers can be penalised if they fail to report child services in the above mentioned situations.

If the person treating the child or adolescent has reason to suspect that the child is, for example, subjected to domestic violence, they are obligated to report it to the social authorities, who will then inspect the situation at the child’s home. Nevertheless, as general good practice, nothing is done without telling the child or adolescent. The medical personnel will discuss with the child or the adolescent, explaining how and why they must act the way they do. In case the situation requires sudden interference, the police may be contacted, as well.