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Paramedic Live Tweeting: Bioethical Violations in the Public Square

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Stephan Ursprung.

Social media can exert a positive influence on healthcare, e.g. through the spread of Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAMed), but it can also wreak havoc. For years, paramedics have faced disciplinary consequences due to inappropriate posts on their personal social media accounts. Now, however, controversy is developing over a different problem: the live tweeting of patient encounters by UK paramedics and ambulance services who/that use Twitter in their professional capacities. Though some defend the practice, it is receiving strong condemnation from both healthcare professionals and members of the public, including at least one of the affected patients. Now, before public outcry increases and further breaches of confidentiality occur, the Health & Care Professions Council (UK paramedics’ regulatory body) and NHS ambulance trusts must revise their policies. However, it is first necessary to reanalyse paramedics’ obligations of confidentiality. UK data protection law is about to change due to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which becomes enforceable in the UK on 25 May, and the Data Protection Bill currently going through Parliament. This talk will include an analysis of these new laws in its examination of paramedic live tweeting. I will present paramedics’ ethical, regulatory/professional, and legal obligations in regard to patient confidentiality; analyse recent examples of live tweets ; and conclude that the live tweeting of patient encounters violates the ethical, regulatory, and legal tenets of the profession and ought to be condemned by the HCPC . Though I will focus on paramedics, much of what I will discuss is applicable to other healthcare professionals.

This talk is part of the Caius MCR/SCR research talks series.

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