AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. April 2000, Volume 2, Number 4.

Ethics Poll

Should Doctors Ever Withhold Information from Patients?

The Ethics Poll is a snapshot of the opinions of interested readers.

In the past, most physicians preferred not to tell their patients too much about serious medical diagnoses, such as cancer. This behavior was justified in the belief that communicating such bad news would only contribute to patients' psychosocial stress. Today, most physicians would not think of "fooling" their patients by withholding information such as a cancer diagnosis. Despite this shift in professional attitudes, some argue that absolute truth telling may actually be countertherapeutic and thus hurt the patient-physician relationship. Do you think physicians should ever withhold information from their patients?
Poll results reflect the opinions of visitors to the site who voluntarily answer the poll questions. Those visitors do not represent a random sample of Virtual Mentor readers. The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.