1. Reaction Statement
“Doctors should maintain the right to deceive and withhold information from their patients as they see fit.”
2. Explanation of Selection
As a Christian, I am engaged in a constant search for truth, particularly that concerning the question of what is ethical. There are very few areas of life where ethical questions have black and white answers. However, no area is as comprehensively gray, nor does one involve so many important and pressing issues as the area of bioethics. In many cases, lives depend on what is deemed ethical by the doctors, the patients, and the patients’ families. The doctor-patient relationship may be the most precarious social relationship and certainly the one with the highest stakes.
3. Definition of Issue
In order to truly understand the issue of lying in the doctor-patient relationship, we must consider the reasons that a doctor might choose to deceive his or her patient. There are three primary reasons a doctor might consider lying to a patient (Gillon, 1982). The first springs from the obligation of doctors not to harm their patients. If informing the patient causes undue suffering and worry, it may be better to leave some information undisclosed. Secondly, the doctor may withhold information from a patient due to lack of comprehension – either on the part of the doctor regarding the diagnosis, or on the part of the patient regarding the ins and outs of medical procedures. Lastly, a doctor may withhold information if the patient does not wish to know. Each of these reasons has its own nuances, and so the question is to determine in which scenario, if any, there is such thing as an acceptable lie. In my paper, I will consider not only the ethical aspects of this question, but also the more pragmatic and economic facets of the discussion.
Gillon, R. (1982). On telling dying patients the truth. Journal of Medical Ethics, 8(3), 115-116. Retrieved from jme.bmj.com.
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