Conditional shared confidentiality with regard to the exchange of information between members of a team or network; ethical advice needs to be updated
background Care-givers not only work as a team, but increasingly they also participate in networks. This development represents an ethical challenge to the exchange of information and to confidentiality.
objective To revise and update earlier advice formulated by the Ethics Committee for Mental Health Care of the Brothers of Charity in Flanders, in particular concerning the question of whether shared confidentiality can be extended from a team to a network.
method The Ethics Committee applied an appropriate method which combined ethical discussion and literature research.
results The earlier advice is no longer adequate because of certain practical and theoretical grounds. The Ethics Committee chooses to take a positive view of the developing cooperation between care-givers and networks. Consequently, the committee proposes shared confidentiality, but links this to five conditions: (1) the care-givers should participate in a clearly defined and identifiable team or network, (2) they should have a caring task in common, (3) they should be pledged to confidentiality, (4) they should consult with the patient and obtain his/her informed
consent, (5) they should apply ‘the filter of relevance’.
conclusion Care-givers can exchange information with members of a team or network, but this should be done on the basis of conditional shared confidentiality.