Oct 19, 2020

Breaches of client confidentiality rarely are the sole subject of a discipline hearing. There are many possible explanations for this including that practitioners are respectful of this professional obligation or that breaches tend to be unintentional and, therefore, are addressed by educational means rather than discipline. However, in a recent Quebec case a nurse’s registration was suspended for two months for breaching client confidentiality: Dagenais c. Nurses (Professional Order of), 2020 QCTP 11, http://canlii.ca/t/j54cs.

A nurse conducting a post-natal visit learned that the mother had come to Quebec for the child’s delivery in order to obtain Canadian citizenship for the baby. The nurse also learned that the mother appeared to be engaging in fraud in order to receive government benefits. The nurse contacted a journalist, who posed as a volunteer delivering baby supplies, in order to conduct a hidden camera interview of the mother. The interview was broadcast. The nurse faced allegations of having disclosed confidential information about the location of her client to the journalist.

The nurse was found to have disclosed confidential information and the two-month suspension was imposed. The nurse’s appeal, on the basis that it had not been proved that she had breached confidentiality, was unsuccessful as the Tribunal concluded there was an adequate basis for the Disciplinary Council to make that finding.

Despite the paucity of precedents, this case illustrates that a deliberate breach of confidentiality can result in serious sanctions.