Doctors not always honest with patients: survey

About 10% of doctors in a recent survey in Health Affairs admitted that they sometimes lie to their patients. They were more likely to be economical with the truth about whether they had made substantial medical errors and a financial relationship with a drug or device company. A team led by Dr Lisa Iezzoni, of the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Mongan Institute for Health Policy, interviewed almost 1900 doctors from different specialties. They asked the doctors what information they thought they had to disclose to patients. 

Around 33% said they didn’t fully agree with telling patients about serious medical errors, and almost 40% said they didn’t think it was necessary to be entirely honest with patients. Over 50% of the doctors said they did not explain all of the potential risks and benefits of specific medical procedures to their patients. About one-third said they shared confidential medical information with people who were not authorised to see it.

“Our findings raise concerns that some patients might not be receiving complete and accurate information from their physicians,” the researchers wrote.  “The effects of these communication lapses are unclear, but they could include patients’ lack of information needed to make fully informed decisions about their health care.”

Bioethicist Art Caplan, of the University of Pennsylvania, said: 

“…don't lie about mistakes, don't lie about conflict of interest, and be forthright when things go wrong. When there is a reason not to be trusted, let the patient decide how they want to manage that. Truth is a better policy. In some other areas, the truth, although it ought to come out eventually, is probably something that is more of a tool to be worked with in trying to help patients than it is an absolute necessity all of the time.”

~ ABC News, Feb 8; Medscape, Feb 10

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