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In a conversation between, say, Alice and Bob, if Bob shares his medical history with Alice, under which conditions is this information considered private medical information?

  • If Alice is a physician?
  • If Bob knows that she is a physician?
  • If Bob asks for medical advice/treatment specifically (as opposed to, say, simply complaining about his health)?

Generally speaking, is medical information shared in an informal context (e.g. chatting with a family friend who happens to be a doctor) as protected as information provided in official medical contexts (e.g. during an appointment in a hospital)?

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(Since no jurisdiction was given this answer will apply to US federal law)

Hipaa lays out the standards for medical information privacy. The language of Hipaa is written in a way that clearly defines the relationship that two parties must have for the privacy of medical information to be protected.

Party A: "Health Care Provider" (Could be more then one person)

Party B: "Patient"

If Alice is not acting as bob's Health Care Provider then Alice has no obligation to protect Bob's medical information.

In addition, if Alice were to share Bob's medical information with Bob's friends, then Bob wouldn't have grounds to sue Alice under the Tort of "invasion of privacy" because Bob broke his own exception of privacy by willfully ,and intentionally disseminating his medical information.

Alice is safe from both criminal and civil action.

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