Reporting cases of rape

May 21, 2004

My patient revealed to me that she was raped. Am I permitted to report this?

Q: My patient revealed to me that she was raped. Am I permitted to report this?

A: No, you may not report the incident without your patient's consent. Indeed, even when requested formally by a law-enforcement official, you may only report such an incident if the patient agrees. If you can't obtain consent (because of an emergency situation or the patient's incapacity), you are permitted to report the incident, but only under certain conditions. (If you believe, for instance, that disclosure is in the best interests of your patient or if law-enforcement officials believe that waiting would "materially and adversely" affect their initial investigations.)

Nevertheless, besides referring your patient to counseling, you should strongly encourage her to report the crime. If she does, and the police request her medical records, you may release them, either with her authorization or in response to a subpoena signed by a judge.