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My Doctor's Office Asked me to Lie

-- Richard Stallman

August 2011

I saw a doctor this week. Before the appointment, I was asked to sign a privacy policy consent form which started out this way

  1. The Practice's privacy Notice has been provided to me prior to my signing this consent...
  2. The Practice reserves the right to change its privacy practices that are described in its Privacy Notice, in accordance with applicable law.

Since I was unwilling to sign a false statement, I asked to see the privacy notice. The receptionist offered me another copy of the consent form. I said I already had that, but that it referred to a "privacy notice" and that's what I didn't have a copy of. The receptionist said, "The rest of this page gives a summary of the privacy notice." It was a very brief summary and treated few points. I said, "This clearly refers to some other Privacy Notice, and it asks me to sign a statement that I have seen it. I cannot sign that if it is not true."

She said it was a binder 3,000 pages long. I said that I would not ask for a copy, but I did want to take a look at it. She went to look for it, then came back and said she could not find it, but asked me to sign anyway.

I said, "Are you asking me to lie?" She said, "No, I am asking you to sign a piece of paper." I said. "I cannot sign a statement that is not true." She said, "You can reschedule your appointment for some other time." I suggested, "How about if I add 'not' to make it a true statement?" She accepted this. So I had my appointment.

The substance of the issue probably doesn't matter much. There is no real confidentiality of medical records in the US, since the police can get them under very easy conditions. Nonetheless, it is a dishonest proceeding, systematically asking patients to accept policies they have not seen and then make false statements.

Copyright 2011 Richard Stallman released under Creative Commons Attribution Noderivs 3.0 unported