Telling Truth Autonomy and Confidentiality.

Telling Truth Autonomy and Confidentiality.

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The truth has a way to defend itself, as it is commonly understood. A reality with absolute discretion will auger well with the recipient as much it may hurt sometimes. Health institutions prepare nurses and doctors to be truthful as they handle patients. Governments, through their legislative chambers, have developed bills touching on elevating and maintaining the nobility of the medical profession, especially the code of ethics. In recent times before employment, medical practitioners do swear to uphold and protect the code of ethics as they discharge their duties. Telling the truth to the patient on their health status and maintaining the confidentiality of the patient are some of the ethics that medical practitioners swear to protect. This paper looks at the intrigues of either telling the truth in some situations or telling a lie whenever its necessary to save the patient.

Does informed consent matter in a medical context?

Informed consent is the primary step in medicine. The patient should be willing and cooperating with the doctors for them to be treated. However, permission should be mutual so that both the doctor and especially the patient, can make an informed decision. For instance, a patient who has cancer, such kind of patients, should be given enough information on the type of cancer they are suffering from. The patient should be given information on prognosis and diagnosis and the various treatment stages, according to Robert (2009). This information helps the patients to prepare psychologically and mentally for treatment. Therefore, this may result in the patient responding better to treatment.

Also, the truth should be given according to the patient’s discretion. Some patients may require hearing the truth themselves, and others let their next of kin or health practitioners deal with it. Although, the other person to receive such information should as well as be prepared while it may harm them as well. In such a scenario, then the doctor can discuss with the patient’s caregiver for medication to begin. The patient’s autonomy should always be respected, which includes the right not to know their medical condition if they deem so.

Should it be adhered to in an absolute way?

The patient’s privilege and right to informed consent should be respected and observed. This is due to the benefits and pre-disposed values that accompany it. Informed consent provides the patient with prior information which they can use to make informed and well-thought decisions concerning their health. It also provides vital information economically that the patient can be able to meet for their medication. Failure to informed consent is a severe health breach, which, for instance, may lead to the patient deteriorate health-wise or die. Without permission, it contradicts the principles of patient-centered care, patient empowerment, and shared decision making. A patient may not make a conscious and informed choice without truthful information shared with them, according to Craig M. et al. (2018).

Moreover, informed consent has both psychological and physical benefits. Psychologically, the patient settles having the knowledge of what they ail from and the possible diagnosis and prognosis. The patient with the exact information on what they are suffering from tends to respond well to treatment as they already have a knowledge of what to expect during treatment. It also prevents mental torture to patients without any anxieties since they already have information on the diagnosis and prognosis. The patient also can undergo the procedure as painful it maybe since they have truthful information, and they understand likely scenarios.

Furthermore, informed consent enables the patient to build trust in the health practitioner and believe in the process. Positive energy from a patient is an excellent stride towards the patient recovering. Informed consent fosters a patient-health practitioner relationship, which may, in turn, lead to the patient opening up on their medical history, which can help the doctor to handle the condition of the patient better. As Yusrita {2018} notes that competent patients should handle the truth, and painful truth is only but an “accident,” but a lie cannot be concealed since, in the fullness of time, it will come out. The fact helps patients to make informed decisions.

Informed consent should be adhered to considering the facts above, and also the moral principle of sharing the truth with the patient so that they can make informed decisions. There is more good than harm in having informed consent between a doctor and patient than not.

Is it ethical to disregard it sometimes?

As the paper has discussed above, informed consent is almost necessary, and it is the right thing to do legally and ethically. However, some cases dispel the notion that informed consent is a necessity, and morally they are right. Sometimes, telling the truth is a prima facie obligation whereby sometimes one duty can override the other. For instance, if lying means life can be saved to telling the truth, then the medical practitioner must lie. The doctors can also hold any information from the patient if it may cause harm.

We consider a case study; Yusrita (2018), in the paper, gives an example of a critically ill patient in ICU and has just gained consciousness after a road accident in which the family members perished. The man then decides to ask about the whereabouts of the family it would be most appropriate that the medical practitioner withholds such information because of his health condition and that it will do him more harm. The lie will give him hope to fight for his life so that he can unite with his family; therefore, the myth is morally justifiable. The primary duty of the doctor is to save the patient’s life, and if it requires a lie, it’s worth a life. Clinical analysis should be conducted by the medical practitioner before such a decision, with proper documentation to prove that a lie was necessary.

Also, when new doctors come on board, they need to be given a platform to learn and gain experience to handle patients. Most patients will most likely object to the fact that a fresh graduate doctor treats them; therefore, such information is held so that the medical profession can continue. Also, the patients who are anti-tablets sometimes can be tricked, and the tablets are smashed into their drinks without their consent. This is wrong to have a patient take pills without their permission, but again it helps to make their dose and finally morally acceptable recovery.

It is necessary to note that it’s not all the times that a medical practitioner should withhold information, but when they deem it appropriate, and it’s for the sake of protecting a patient’s life. Therefore, a medical practitioner should clinically assess the patient and weigh the impacts to make a decision.

In conclusion, the oath of telling the truth should be respected by the doctor as it is the right of the patient to have a piece of information to determine their health problems. Undoubtedly, telling the truth is the right thing any human being should do. However, some medical cases give an impression that not always. Thus, doctors should understand the circumstances in which they have to lie. It is necessary that lying should be the last thing a medical practitioner should do but for the noble cause of saving humanity.


Zolkefli, Y. (2018). The ethics of truth-telling in health-care settings. The Malaysian journal of medical sciences: MJMS, 25(3), 135.

Veatch, R. M. (2009). Case studies in biomedical ethics: Decision-making, principles, and cases.

Klugman, C. M., Dunn, L. B., Schwartz, J., & Cohen, I. G. (2018). The ethics of smart pills and self-acting devices: Autonomy, truth-telling, and trust at the dawn of digital medicine. The American Journal of Bioethics, 18(9), 38-47.

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