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Analysis Of Should Doctors Tell The Truth

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Roger Higgs, in “On Telling Patients the Truth” supplies commonly used arguments for paternalistic deception. For the purposes of this paper, paternalism will be defined as, “interference with one’s autonomy or self determination for their own good.” The first argument for paternalistic deception is founded on the idea that medicine is a technical subject where there are very few guarantees (613). Thus, Higgs supplies the argument that not only is it impossible for a patient to understand the true breadth of their diagnosis and prognosis, but additionally that medical predictions are not medical truths. The second argument for paternalistic deception comes from the belief that patients do not actually want to know the truth about their condition, and could suffer from worse health outcomes if they are told the truth (614, 615).

In “Should Doctors Tell the Truth?” Joseph Collins argues for paternalistic deception, declaring that it is permissible for physicians to deceive their patients when it is in their best interests. Collins considers his argument from a “pragmatic” standpoint, rather than a moral one, and uses his experience with the sick to justify paternalistic deception. Collins argues that in his years of practicing, he has encountered four types of patients who want to know the truth: those that want to know so they know how much time they have left, those who do not want to know and may suffer if told the truth, those who are incapable of hearing the truth, and those who do not have a serious diagnosis (605). Collins follows with the assertion that the more serious the condition is, the less likely the patient is to seek information about their health (606).

Collins argues that doctors should frequently withhold ...

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However, it has been reported that telling a patient the truth may significantly improve their wellbeing as they approach the end of their life. One study revealed that truth telling may reduce terminal cancer patients’ uncertainty and anxiety, as indicated by lower scores on a Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale, and higher scores on a Spiritual Well-being scale (Kao et al. 2013). Furthermore, while there is no explicit principle regarding lying within the Hippocratic Oath, honesty is a virtue that is closely associated with physicians and health care providers. In fact, honesty can be closely related to respect for persons, which implies that it is necessary for the maintenance of the physician-patient relationship. Honesty about all relevant aspects of a patient’s diagnosis, prognosis and treatment are necessary to build trust, and to obtain informed consent.
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