Have You Ever Lied to a Patient?

October 31, 2018

If you have ever lied to a patient, you are far from alone.

A study of more than 600 residents in 22 specialties revealed that a notable 10% of physicians would either not own up to a medical error or would defer to another physician. Just 56% of respondents would reveal the truth about unanticipated events; the percentage rises to 75% if the error was serious enough to lead to a malpractice suit. Only 41% would reveal a near miss if it had no impact on patient health.

In another survey of nearly 1900 physicians from across the United States, more than 10% of physicians revealed that in the past year, they had told an adult patient or a child's guardian something that was not true. Still another survey found that 47% of residents said they would deceive an insurance company if it resulted in additional patient benefit.

Lies of omission are enormously common in oncology, Andrew C. Neuschatz, MD, pointed out in a recent feature on Medscape.

"We all have our ways of explaining difficult concepts like the benefits of adjuvant care or the tumoricidal mechanism of radiation, but I think we need to be alert to the fact that we can oversimplify to the point of obfuscation or even untruth," he writes.

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