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Arch Hellen Med, 28(1), January-February 2011, 27-32


Ethical and deontological issues related to the publication of photographs of patients in medical textbooks in Greece

G. Leon,1 O. Boziki,2 C. Spiliopoulou1
1Department of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Medical School, Athens, Greece,
2Università di Camerino, Facoltà di Giurispudenza, Dipartimento di Medicina Legale, Camerino, Italy

Bibliographic data eMedical textbooks have a specific content and target a specific audience. The starting point of this investigation was a patient's application to the Authority for Personal Data Protection testifying that she was illustrated in a medical textbook without her approval and consent. The Authority recommended to the author that, should there be publication in the future of similar medical cases with a photographic illustration, the author should change the image in such a way that the affected person cannot be recognised. This article is an attempt to conduct a thorough study of the ethical framework in force in Greece and the relevant international rules applicable in such cases. The Greek ethical framework includes a series of legislative acts regarding the protection of personal data, and the relevant rules of medical ethics. In addition, the relevant rules of medical publishing are examined, and the ethical dilemmas that arise in the light of the principles of bioethics −utility, autonomy, justice and equality− are also considered. The principles of ethics are a central issue in doctor-patient consent and confidentiality. There is a need to consider the basic obligations towards the education in ethics of medical students and colleagues, and the ethical aspects of publication of scientific discoveries. In no case should educational activity or research be conducted at the expense of the individual patient and the disruption of the doctor-patient relationship. In light of the principles of bioethics, there appears at first sight to be a conflict between the rights of the individual patient that is photographed and interests of the doctors wishing to publish the photograph. When the basic element of consensus is included, however, a positive outcome can be reached. In conclusion, the publication of photographs of patients should be done sparingly and with respect for the individual patients.

Key words: Bioethics, Confidentiality, Informed consent, Medical deontology, Medical textbooks.

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