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Survey reveals doctors are not always honest with patients

When you visit your physician after experiencing abnormal health problems or concerns, you are putting complete trust in your doctor to diagnosis and treat your symptoms as effectively as possible. You also probably expect your doctor to be completely honest with you regarding what could be causing your health to suffer. However, a recently published study suggests that medical professionals in Fayetteville and throughout the entire country may not be as honest with their patients as we would all like to think.

According to a study that was published this month in Health Affairs, about 10 percent of the doctors surveyed admitted that they lied to a patient. Others admitted to not being completely honest with a patient. Some doctors argue the reason for not disclosing every detail to patients is to minimize confusion or to prevent patients from getting worked up about something that may have no effect on them. But shouldn't patients be told the truth about their health at all times? Could a doctor's white lie lead to medical malpractice if a patient is not fully aware of his or her health issues?

Researchers surveyed about 1,900 physicians throughout the U.S. and discovered that one out of 10 doctors admitted to telling a patient something that was not true. Of the doctors polled who admitted to lying to patients, about 20 percent claimed they were not completely truthful with patients regarding medical errors in order to avoid being sued.

More than 50 percent of all of the doctors surveyed admitted they were not completely honest with patients because they did not want their patients to overreact or lose hope over a concerning prognosis. And about 40 percent agreed that informing patients about a medical professional's relationship with a pharmaceutical company was not necessary or important, even though money may sometimes play a role in which medications or medical devices doctors encourage patients to use or try.

Although some white lies may have no effect on a patient and his or her health, many argue that being more honest with patients not only creates a more trusting patient-doctor relationship, but patients may also feel more empowered and make better decisions when it comes to their health. In addition to doctors needing to take a more professional approach when communicating with patients about their health, patients can also be clear with their doctors about their expectations of honest communication about exams, tests and other medical concerns.

Source: TIME, "White Coats, White Lies: How Honest Is Your Doctor?" Alice Park, Feb. 9, 2012

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