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Doctors Don't Always Tell You the Whole Truth

Published: 2012-04-09
Author: Powers & Santola, LLP

Synopsis: Over half of physicians told patients their prognosis looked better than it did others tried to scare patients out of bad health behavior by making a prognosis seem more threatening than it truly was.

Main Digest

Is Your Doctor Telling You the Whole Truth? Maybe Not, Says New Study - A nationwide poll has troubling implications for patients who rely on their doctor's advice.


In our culture, doctors have an almost mythical reputation as the wielders of exclusive knowledge about the mysteries of the human body. Sometimes this standing allows us to forget that, just like their patients, physicians are only human.

One new study bluntly reveals how human many doctors really are. New research, published in the prestigious journal Health Affairs, paints a grim picture about the level of dishonesty infecting the medical profession. The report just may have you wondering whether you really know the person you have entrusted with your wellbeing - and reaching for the number of a respected NYC medical malpractice law firm.

Physician Dishonestly About Drug Company Ties, Medical Mistakes Prevalent

Researchers surveyed almost 2,000 practicing physicians throughout the United States to compile the results of the Health Affairs study. They captured information about a wide spectrum of untruthfulness.

Some doctors dishonesty sprang from honorable intentions: more than half of physicians told patients their prognosis looked better than it did (55 percent admitted to delivering an inaccurately positive health report in the last year); others attempted to "scare" patients out of bad health behavior by making a prognosis seem more threatening than it truly was. Yet, studies consistently show that patients prefer the truth about their medical condition, even if it is grim - understandable, given that what a doctor may see as a white lie in this context precludes the patient from exercising his or her own autonomous judgments about the situation.

Noble, if misguided, intentions did not account for all doctor mendacity reported in the study. Many doctors were unwilling to reveal their own ties to pharmaceutical or medical device companies: about 40 percent said they do not believe it is necessary to tell patients when they have a financial stake in companies whose products they may be recommending.

A significant minority of doctors responded when asked about reporting medical mistakes to patients. Approximately one-third of physicians said they did not completely agree that patients should always be informed about serious medical errors (and just over 10 percent admitted to telling a patient a lie in the last year). Even though such lies may be intentioned as a means of dodging a medical malpractice suit, the study's lead author noted that they often have the opposite effect: patients are more likely to pursue legal claims against doctors who are not open and honest about their mistakes.

Doctor Lies Can Lead To Legal Culpability

A doctor's dishonesty can cause you harm in many ways, from delaying the diagnosis of a serious health threat to usurping your right to make your own medical decisions based on full and accurate information. If you believe a physician's untruthfulness may have had a negative impact on yourself or a family member, contact a medical malpractice lawyer to learn more about your right to compensation.

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Cite This Page (APA): Powers & Santola, LLP. (2012, April 9). Doctors Don't Always Tell You the Whole Truth. Disabled World. Retrieved September 18, 2021 from