Maintain confidentiality: When to tell others a patient is trans

Telling other people that a person is trans can impact the way they are treated by others and, in some circumstances, can put them at risk of harassment and even physical assault. It may also be a breach of GDPR and the Gender Recognition Act 2024.

In addition to this, some trans people might not have told everyone in their life that they’ve changed their name and pronouns. If you are aware that a patient is trans, it is useful to find out which name and pronouns they’d like you to use when talking or writing to other people about them.

In some circumstances, it will be relevant to tell colleagues that a patient is trans. Only share this if it’s something that they need to know. This would usually be because it is clinically relevant or because it’ll change the way in which they’ll need to care for the patient.

It is good practice to seek a trans person’s permission before telling other people that they’re trans. Make sure you explain who you’ll share the information with and why it’s important.

Your approach will of course be different if the patient is unable to give consent because they’re unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate.

Whilst many trans people have supportive family members, this is not always the case. It’s important to understand that some trans people may have challenging relationships with their families. Some trans people will nominate a close friend as an emergency contact if they do not have a partner or supportive family member in their life.

Some trans people may not have told their family members that they are trans. This means that family members might not know that they’ve transitioned or are planning to transition. Other trans people may be estranged from their families or from certain family members for safety reasons.

It’s important not to make assumptions on your trans patients’ relationships with their families, including those based on stereotypes of people from particular cultural and religious backgrounds.

With this in mind, it’s good to have double checked emergency contact details and what information a trans person is (and isn’t) happy for you to share with them.

There is no reason for you to tell other patients that one of your other patients is trans. A person’s trans status should be treated with the same level of discretion you’d treat their medical history with. This is not information that other patients, their family members or members of the public have a right to know. If another patient asks you if a patient is trans, you could respond by saying something like

“Whether or not someone is trans is information personal to them. I don’t share any patient’s personal information and I’m sure you wouldn’t want me to tell other patients your private information. With that in mind, that’s not a question I’m going to answer.”

If another patient is behaving in a discriminatory way towards a trans patient, it is possible to deal with this without disclosing that the individual patient is trans. For example, by saying

“At our hospital, every patient has the right to be treated with respect. The language you’re using to talk about this person would be considered offensive by many people and I’d like you to stop.”

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A disclaimer: TransActual do not provide medical, health, or legal advice. The content of this page is intended for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a medical professional. It is not a substitute for advice from a legal professional. We strongly suggest you consult a healthcare professional or legal professional for specific advice about your situation. TransActual do not advocate or recommend the purchase of any specific product and we do not endorse or guarantee the credentials or appropriateness of any health care provider, any product or any provider of insurance and legal services.

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