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Doctors: Telling the Whole Truth?

To make decisions about our health, our bodies and which course of treatment is best for us, we need full and truthful information. However, the people that we trust to provide us with this information, our doctors, may not be telling us the whole truth about our health and errors occurring in treatment, according to a new study published in Health Affairs.

Led by Dr. Lisa Iezzoni, director of the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, the study surveyed almost 1,900 doctors about their interactions with patients, and 55 percent of the doctors that responded to the survey stated that they "had been more positive" about the prognosis of patients than they should have been in the past year. And, 40 percent of doctors stated they did not tell patients of a financial relationship with a medical device manufacturer or drug company.

More shockingly, 10 percent of doctors said they had lied to patients and 20 percent stated that they failed to tell patients of medical errors for fear of medical malpractice lawsuits.

While doctors may have well-intentioned, or not-so-well intentioned, reasons for not telling patients the full truth of their conditions, prognoses or treatments, Time references other studies that have repeatedly shown that patients would rather hear the truth and be fully aware of their situation than have a doctor candy coat the realities faced.

Medical errors can have disastrous results, but covering up mistakes made will only compound the situation and erode the doctor-patient relationship.


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