The lasting legacy of a bigamous duchess: the benchmark precedent for medical confidentiality

Ferguson, A.H. (2006) The lasting legacy of a bigamous duchess: the benchmark precedent for medical confidentiality. Social History of Medicine, 19(1), pp. 37-53. (doi:10.1093/shm/hkj002) (PMID:17153159)

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.


For all that is currently written on the subject of medical ethics, comparatively little comes from a historical perspective. This article provides socio-historical background on the case that set the boundaries of modern- day definitions of medical confidentiality: the trial of the Duchess of Kingston in 1776. By looking beyond Lord Mansfield's key ruling on confidentiality to the context in which it was made, the paper claims that the precedent did not rest on a debate of the central principles involved. Rather, professional privilege was used by a high-ranking surgeon as a means of maintaining reputation and status when forced to make a public breach of confidentiality.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:medical ethics, confidentiality, secrecy, privilege, Duchess of Kingston, honour, legal precedent, medical witness
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Ferguson, Dr Angus
Authors: Ferguson, A.H.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Economic and Social History
Journal Name:Social History of Medicine
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):1477-4666
Published Online:20 February 2006

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record