In most countries doctors have the right to withhold information without being required to tell the patient they have done so. Medical records are inaccessible even to the patients themselves. The confidentiality with which physicians, other health workers and institutions may treat the medical history, present health and health-related conditions of patients and ex-patients, may be a serious obstacle to preventing crises in the lives of the individuals and families concerned. It may also prevent effective action against socially undesirable behaviour and individual and public health hazards. In some cases it is an obstacle in legal proceedings and may interfere with the ends of justice.
Adolescent pregnancy concealed from parents by health or social workers, who may be excluded from exercising their legal responsibilities over a minor, presents a moral, medical and legal challenge to the community. Similarly among the young, detected venereal disease and drug and alcohol addiction may not be disclosed to the parents or legal guardians. Among the mature, health workers may keep secret a serious heart condition although it may be known to them that the patient is in high-stress employment. Secrecy may apply to diagnosed mental illness or brain-function impairment; and increased stress in an already stressful situation may be caused when a person dying of cancer, for example, is not told, even though his family may have been informed. Patients may request deletion from their records of conditions which future medical treatments may be affected by; they may also refrain from authorizing release of their records even when medical research could benefit.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
Non-profit, apolitical, independent, and non-governmental in nature, the UIA has been a pioneer in the research, monitoring and provision of information on international organizations, international associations and their global challenges since 1907.