It is standard practice in the profession of psychiatry that a patient’s secrets are kept secret. This is the way it should be even after a patient passes away. Therefore, when senior psychiatrist Dr. Ahmed Saad spoke to Okaz newspaper about his [late] patient Dr. Nasser al Harithy, former professor of Islamic Antiquities at Umm al Qura University, may his soul rest in peace, and said that it was likely that this patient committed suicide, this should be considered a violation of the profession’s code of conduct.
Information on a patient, his medical file, the nature of his illness and the ways to cure him should all be kept secret. Dr. Ahmed Saad failed to comply with such ethics as he elaborately described the condition of his former patient. He was not content with violating his former patient’s rights and poked his nose in further by assuming the patient committed suicide. Dr. Saad saw his patient for only 35 minutes in November 2007, and by any standard, this is nowhere enough time to talk about the patient’s condition with so much confidence regardless of how experienced the psychiatrist is. Mental disorders are baffling and their symptoms overlap. It is superficial to provide an initial diagnosis following a 35-minute session.
By appearing in the media and revealing details of his patient’s medical file to the press, this psychiatrist is putting the privacy of thousands of patients at stake. I am sure that these patients include university professors, scientists, businessmen, officials, men of letters and media figures. They trusted him revealing their secrets, pains and even personal and family secrets. These are no longer safe and might be revealed to others.
I don’t know if the Saudi Ministry of Health has legislations to protect the secrets of patients and punish whoever is in violation of this. If there are legislations in this regard then it is only fair that these apply to the psychiatrist in question. If there are none then psychiatric patients should have faith that God is just and merciful.
May God bless the family of late professor Nasser al Harithy with patience. Many people have commented on this case and have spoken about what shouldn’t be spoken about in times of sadness and grief.
As for Dr. Ahmed, I say et tu Doctor.