Debate heats up over doctors' right to inform police about teen girls' sex life

The Ministry of Health and Deputy Prime Minister Ihar Pyatryshenka recently told BelTA news agency that after routine check-ups, gynecologists will inform the police about the sex life of schoolgirls under 16. Doctors noted that such information relates to medical secrecy, which "has not been canceled by anyone." At the same time, the vice-premier said called this issue, which is a disturbing one for the Belarusian society, nothing but rumors, “a story planted into the information space” and “a dull, absolutely groundless sensation.”

Gynecologists interviewed by the Euroradio claim that contrary to the comments of the Ministry of Health and the Deputy Prime Minister, such a procedure already exists. And the security officials say that criminal cases against men who have entered into intimate relationships with girls under 16 are often launched precisely after reports from doctors.

So can and should doctors tell the police about the results of gynecological examinations, if a schoolgirl under 16 who already has a sex life has come to them?

In short, the answer to the first question is yes, they can. And it is around the answer to the second question that a public discussion has unfolded.

In the article with official commentary called "Ministry of Health: Medical secrecy cancelled by no one," we found the following:

a) Doctors should not transfer information about the sex life of minors to anyone, even parents, except as required by law;

b) Specific situations that provide for police interventions are set out in the Council of Ministers' resolution No. 1192 of December 18, 2014, concerning medical confidentiality: if a girl under the age of 16 is pregnant, if during the examination there are found injuries that indicate illegal actions in relation to her (these could be signs of rape, interventions for abortion).

What is important in these comments:

a) patient confidentiality is not a dogma, and in certain cases legislation allows for it to be circumvented;

b) these cases are listed in the Resolution of the Council of Ministers of 18 December 2014 No. 1192. They include signs of rape or abortion. And if you carefully read the resolution, there is another point not mentioned in the commentary of the Health Ministry published on February 20. Gynecologists' hands are untied by the discovery of "other information that harm to the patient’s health was caused by unlawful actions" (clause 3.5 of the provision on patient confidentiality, approved by decree No. 1192). This information is to be transfered to the superiors who will pass it on to the police.

Thus, patient confidentiality has not been canceled. But de jure, if a gynecologist examines a girl under 16 and thinks that she was "harmed as a result of illegal actions" then reports this information to the police, this will not be considered a violation of patient confidentiality. The question is whether every case of virginity by a girl under 16 recorded by the doctor will be considered a sign of a committed crime.

There are some more related questions. For example, would an exception be left for the cases when young people have love sex? How will the police check the information? Wouldn't a new practice be a convenient way to retaliate in case of unrequited love? We will probably find out the answers to these questions from officials and security officials in the near future.