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Consent to collection, use, and disclosure of clinical images taken with a personal mobile device

Obtaining consent to collect a clinical image

Case Study Three

Mr Jones was to undergo excision of an unusual rectal lesion. After he was anaesthetised, the surgical team pointed out key features of the lesion to an RMO, who took several photos of the lesion on his mobile phone. The RMO was subsequently asked to attend a meeting with the Director of Clinical Services, during which he was informed that a staff member had complained about him taking photos in the operating room. The RMO explained that preoperatively he had asked the patient if he could take pre- and postoperative photos of the lesion for therapeutic and teaching purposes. The RMO explained that the patient was happy for photos to be taken, but conceded that he had not recorded this in the clinical notes, or asked the patient to sign a “Consent to Photographs” form.

Patients have the right to consent to (or refuse) the collection, use, and disclosure of clinical images. Only competent patients can provide consent; however, where a patient lacks decision-making capacity, consent should be sought from the patient’s substitute decision-maker (see Complex Circumstances).

You should discuss the following information with the patient (or their substitute decision-maker) to ensure they make an informed decision when consenting to (or
refusing) the collection, use, and disclosure of clinical images:

  • The purpose(s) of the clinical image i.e. why the clinical image is being taken.
  • How the clinical image may be used e.g. an image could be used in a de-identified
  • form for training and education purposes.
  • Who will have access to the image.
  • Whether it might be shared and disclosed to others, and for what purposes.
  • Whether it will be de-identified.
  • How and where it will be stored.