Signalling standards for progress: Bridging the divide between a valid consent to use patient data under data protection law and the common law duty of confidentiality

Edward S. Dove, Mark J Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In this article, we analyse the legal components of disclosing confidential patient information under the UK’s common law duty of confidentiality (CLDoC) and processing personal (health) data under the UK's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Data Protection Act 2018. We describe the ostensible divide between the CLDoC and data protection law when it comes to the requirements of a valid signal of consent by a patient to use and disclose patient information, obtained by a health professional in the context of direct care, for health care and health research purposes. Ultimately, our analysis suggests that we are saddled, at least in the medium term, with two regimes operating with different standards of a valid consent—while putatively protecting similar interests. There is, however, opportunity for progress. It is possible to improve professional guidance on the interaction between the regimes and to achieve significant normative alignment without aligning the signalling standard for consent; this would promote consistent protection of reasonable expectations of patients across both regimes. Further coherence would require aligning not only the standard, but also the role played by consent under each regime. Here we argue that, in relation to direct care, any such shift should be away from consent as the normal justification. In relation to health research, on the contrary, it should be toward consent as the normal justification for use and disclosure of patient information under both the CLDoC and data protection law.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfwab014
Pages (from-to)411–445
Number of pages35
JournalMedical Law Review
Volume29
Issue number3
Early online date16 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jul 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • confidentiality
  • consent
  • data protection
  • health research
  • medicine
  • patient data

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