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Case for mandatory reporting of ‘body packers’

Authors

  • Biswadev Mitra,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    • Emergency and Trauma Centre, The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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  • De Villiers Smit,

    1. Emergency and Trauma Centre, The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    2. Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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  • William P O'Shea

    1. Alfred Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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  • Biswadev Mitra, MBBS, MHSM, PhD, FACEM, Acting Director, Emergency Medicine Research; De Villiers Smit, MBBS, FACEM, Director, Emergency & Trauma Centre; William P O'Shea, BSc, DipEd, LLB (Hons), Legal Counsel.

Correspondence: Dr Biswadev Mitra, Emergency and Trauma Centre, The Alfred Hospital, Commercial Road, Melbourne, Vic. 3004, Australia. Email: b.mitra@alfred.org.au

Abstract

Body packing is the term used to describe the ingestion of illicit substances for transport across control lines. Where the diagnosis of body packing is made independently in the ED, the issue of reporting the case to law enforcement officials poses a difficult scenario given the legal obligations of patient confidentiality. We describe a case of a body packer brought into the ED and subsequently reported to the police. The conflicts between patient confidentiality versus statutory exceptions to confidentiality along with case law regarding this scenario are discussed.

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