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Physicians, hospitals, other health care facilities, nursing staff: they are all under the supervision of the Health Care Inspectorate (‘IGJ’).
But the judicial authorities too, monitor the medical world – in case of complications, sudden death of a patient or other unexpected consequences of medical treatment, a criminal investigation may follow, led by the Medical Public Prosecutor (Expertise Team Medical Cases). The physician or other care provider concerned may be asked to surrender medical files or to cooperate in a police or court interview. This raises complex questions about professional confidentiality and legal privilege.
The consequences of not giving the proper medical care may be far-reaching. Of course, not only for the patient but also for the care provider in question and his/her employer. The consequences of inadequate representation in criminal proceedings can be just as far-reaching.
The lawyers at Sjöcrona • van Stigt have extensive experience in these kinds of proceedings and provide specialised legal assistance to both individual physicians and other care providers, and to hospitals and other care facilities.
A criminal investigation led by the (Medical) Public Prosecutor is general conducted by the police. You have to take into account the fact that the medical knowledge of the average detective lags way behind that of the IGJ investigators. In order to avoid (medical) misunderstandings and possible subsequent legal problems, we recommend that you have a specialised criminal lawyer assist you when you make a statement to the police as a witness or suspect.
A criminal investigation is often preceded by or runs parallel with an investigation led by the IGJ. Although, in principle, you have to cooperate with an IGJ investigation, it is important that you realise that the information gathered by the IGJ may, at a later stage, end up with the Public Prosecutor. Which is why we generally get involved early on.
Suppose the Public Prosecutor’s Office informs you they want information covered by professional confidentiality. Are you allowed to give them this information? This is a tricky question. Breaching medical confidentiality can result in a criminal offence (violation of Article 272, Criminal Code), as well as be cause for a disciplinary reprimand. Hence, it is important to not ‘simply’ comply with a Public Prosecutor’s Office’s demand to surrender medical information or care or patient files. Our specialised team regularly gives advice on these complex issues.