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The summary of M.A. Turmel’s conference which took place on September 11 is available: L’échange de renseignements confidentiels lorsque la sécurité d’une personne est menacée (The Exchange of Confidential Information When the Security of a Person is Threatened)

Themes: Conference

L’échange de renseignements confidentiels : quelques balises légales pour guider nos pratiques de lutte à la maltraitance envers les personnes aînées (The Exchange of Confidential Information: Some Legal Beacons to Guide our Practice to Counter Mistreatment of Older Adults)

Tuesday September 11, around fifty public, Para public and community/social economy organisation representatives of the Estrie region participated, at the CSSS-IUGS, to a conference given by M.A. Audrey Turmel, co-organised with Paul Martel (Estrie coordinator for the application of the Governmental Action Plan to Counter Mistreatment of Older Adults), the table de concertation pour contrer la maltraitance envers les personnes aînées de l’Estrie (Concertation Table to Counter Mistreatment of Older Adults of Estrie) and the Research Chair on mistreatment of Older Adults. The next day, around fifty participants from Sherbrooke (practitioners of the CSSS and representatives of  the financial community) benefited from this training session. M.A. Turmel, from the Ministry of Justice, participates to the establishment of the Plan d’action gouvernemental pour contrer la maltraitance envers les personnes aînées 2010-2015 (Governmental Action Plan to Conuter Mistreatment of Older Adults 2010-2015), which was made public on June 14 of 2010. The conference that was given was directly linked with the commitment “la mise au point d’outils et d’exemples pour soutenir les professionnels aux prises avec des situations où le secret professionnel est en jeu” (The Development of Tools and Examples to Support the Professionals Facing Situations Where Professional Secrecy is at Stake). This conference takes on its full meaning in a context where intersectoral work is constantly recommended to answer mistreatment towards older adults. From there the following questions are asked: what to share, with who, in what contexts and with what prior authorization?

To start, M.A. Turmel restated that the professional can only be released of professional secrecy only if its client waives it explicitly or tacitly in a clear and voluntary way, unequivocally. She then brought precisions on the distinct notions of “professional secrecy” and “organisational secrecy” before reminding that exceptions exists allowing for the disclosure of personal information without the consent of the holder as stipulated in the laws[1]. She then explained to the participants that the law[2]plans conditions to ease professional and organisational secrecy in certain circumstances. Indeed, the Law modifying different legislative provisions addressed the disclosure of confidential information to ensure the protection of people (L.R.Q. 2001, c. 78) plans the possible of lifting the secrecy to whom is concerned by the “prevention of a violent act, including ‘suicide’, when there is ‘reasonable ground’ to believe that imminent danger of death or serious injuries threatens a person or a group of identifiable people”. (Free translation)

The question period concluding this multi sectoral meeting was a precious occasion to share practice experiences and observations coming from research activities. Among these, constructive exchanges took place on the writing of the clinical file of people experiencing mistreatment. These situations who create a lot of uncertainty, as much as in the step of identifying the issue than the choice of solutions to use, call for a  prudential practice characterized by the complexity and the singularity of interventions where premade solutions do not apply. Clinical as well as judicial point of view, the necessity of recording to the file complete progress notes that includes not only the results of intervention, but also the professional impressions were discussed. This desirable practice, almost needed[3] with more complicated cases, allows to keep track chronologically of the acts reported by the person as well as the results of interventions used, but also allows to retrace the signification and the validity of choices made in terms of actions used and those put aside. This way of recording events and professional hypotheses makes it possible if needed to change from a simple worry to reasonable ground to believe that the life of a person can be in danger for example in situations of mistreatment towards older adults. Following this, M.A. Turmel plans discussions with the professional orders, as part of the mandate that was given to her by the Québec’s Ministry of Justice.

The PowerPoint for M.A. Turmel’ conference is available, with her permission, on the Research Chair on mistreatment of Older Adults’ website at the following link:


[1] Art. 59 of the Act respecting Access to documents held by public bodies and the Protection of personal information; art. 18 of the Privacy act

[2] In 2001, the legislator adopted a bill (P.L. 180) that modifies the practice rules of professional secrecy and ease the confidentiality obligation of personal information. Giving precedence to the droit à la vie et à la sécurité by making sure that the invasion of privacy and professional secrecy stays minimal.

[3] On the basis of the results of a masters thesis in gerontology available at the document centre: Belzile, L. (December 2010). Analyse des pratiques de tenue de dossiers cliniques des gestionnaires de cas sous l’angle de la continuité comme attribut essentiel de la qualité des services. Mémoire de maîtrise en gérontologie. Faculté de médecine et des sciences de la santé. Université de Sherbrooke.