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Confidentiality and Legal Privilege

  1. John Petrila

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy1051

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Petrila, J. 2010. Confidentiality and Legal Privilege. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. University of South Florida

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


The duty of health care professionals to protect the privacy of health care information is a bedrock legal and ethical principle. Two types of laws provide such protection. One concerns confidentiality, and the other concerns privilege. The two are related but discrete. Confidentiality is the legal and ethical obligation of health care professionals not to disclose information about an individual obtained in the course of providing diagnostic or treatment services. Privilege is the law's recognition of confidentiality in legal proceedings in which confidential material otherwise would be subject to disclosure as part of that proceeding. This article discusses the values that underlie confidentiality, the various sources of confidentiality law, and significant exceptions to it. The note concludes with a brief discussion of legal privilege.