Privacy and confidentiality

World Health Organization resources

World Health Organization, Safe Abortion: Technical and Policy Guidance for Health Systems. (2nd ed., 2012)
Access to safe abortion depends not only on the availability of services, but also on the manner in which they are delivered and the treatment of women within the clinical context. Services should be delivered in a way that respects a woman's dignity, guarantees her right to privacy and is sensitive to her needs and perspectives. Attention should be given to the special needs of the poor, adolescents, and other vulnerable and marginalized women. (Chapter 3, p. 64)
Within the framework of national abortion laws, norms and standards should include protections for informed and voluntary decision-making, autonomy in decision-making, non-discrimination, and confidentiality and privacy for all women, including adolescents.' (Chapter 3, p. 67).
The fear that confidentiality will not be maintained deters many women – particularly adolescents and unmarried women – from seeking safe, legal abortion services, and may drive them to clandestine, unsafe abortion providers, or to self-induce abortion. Confidentiality is a key principle of medical ethics and an aspect of the right to privacy and must be guaranteed. Health-care providers therefore have a duty to protect medical information against unauthorized disclosures, and to ensure that women who do authorize release of their confidential information to others do so freely and on the basis of clear information. Adolescents deemed mature enough to receive counselling without the presence of a parent or other person are entitled to privacy, and may request confidential services and treatment (see Section
Health-service managers should ensure that facilities provide privacy for conversations between women and providers, as well as for actual services. For example, procedure rooms should be partitioned for visual and auditory privacy, and only facility staff required for the induced abortion should be present. There should be a private place for undressing, curtained windows, and cloth or paper drapes to cover the woman during the procedure.
World Health Organization, Considerations for Formulating Reproductive Health Laws, (2nd edition, 2000)
The purpose of this Discussion Paper is to consider how laws can be developed in order to improve protection of reproductive and sexual health, and how they can be applied to facilitate rather than obstruct the availability of reproductive and sexual health services. It addresses legal principles governing relations between providers of health services in general and of reproductive and sexual health services in particular, and intended recipients of those services. The legal principles that are examined include those governing free and informed decision making, privacy and confidentiality, the competent delivery of services and the use of conscientious objection. The Paper explores how human rights found in national constitutions and laws, regional and international treaties have been and can be more effectively applied to protect and promote reproductive and sexual health.