Survey finds that doctors don’t always tell patients the truth

On behalf of Kammholz Law PLLC posted in Medical Malpractice on Monday, February 13, 2012.

Your doctor may not always be telling you the truth according to a survey in Health Affairs of roughly 1,900 U.S. physicians. Researchers found that 55 percent of doctors said that they had been more positive about a patient’s prognosis than his or her medical history justified. Ten percent of doctors had also told their patients something that was not true. More surprisingly, the survey found that a third of doctors felt that it wasn’t always necessary to disclose medical errors to patients and 40 percent said they didn’t think they needed to disclose financial ties to drug or medical device companies. Why are some physicians dishonest? Some may be for self-protection. The survey found that 20 percent of doctors admitted they did not disclose a medical error to their patients because they were fearful of being sued for medical malpractice. Other doctors may not tell the truth to protect the patient. The survey found that doctors might not tell their patients about an abnormal test result if it has no impact on the patient’s health. On the other hand, doctors may exaggerate a test result to try and motivate the patient to take their healthcare more seriously. Doctors may sugarcoat their patient’s prognosis to make it not seem as bad and keep their patient hopeful. Short office visits also contribute to doctors not being as truthful as they could be. Shorter office visit times do not allow for doctors to go into long discussions about their patient’s medical condition, so some doctors might try to avoid causing the patient anxiety by not having an in-depth discussion of their condition. Despite the survey’s findings, other studies have found that patients would rather be told the truth and want to be fully informed about their health. Patients would prefer to hear harsh news than stay ignorant about their medical condition, no matter how hard it may be to hear. Doctors who fail to disclose medical errors for fear of malpractice lawsuits should ease their fears. Studies have found that when physicians are honest about their mistakes, patients are more understanding and less likely to sue. The researchers recommended that doctors receive more training on how to communicate with their patients, especially when delivering bad news. Patients can also be more firm and clear with their doctors and let them know their communication expectations. Source Time, “White Coats, White Lies: How Honest Is Your Doctor?” Alice Park, Feb. 9, 2012


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