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Durham University

Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease

Medical Confidentiality and Patient Privacy in Historical Perspective

Investigator: Prof. Holger Maehle
Supported by the Leverhulme Trust

In our time, when the electronic storage of personal health data and disease notification issues (e.g. in AIDS) cause widespread concerns, it is of great interest to explore the historical origins of discussions on medical confidentiality and patients' privacy. This study will comparatively analyse, contextualise and explain debates on the limits of medical secrecy in Britain, Germany and the USA between c. 1880 and 1940. The chosen period of investigation is particularly relevant because the traditional obligation of medical confidentiality, reaching back to the Hippocratic Oath, then began to be challenged by state public health initiatives and the law. The results of this research are planned to be published as a monograph with University of Chicago Press.