March 29, 2012
There was a very nice, honest piece in the Op-Ed section of the NYT recently about doctors’ feelings and why they lie (or don’t tell the whole truth) to their patients. The physician/author candidly shared some very personal feelings and stories about when she wasn’t able to tell her patients the truth and when she actually lied to them.
Many physicians (and the attorneys who counsel them) believe that if they give bad news or, even worse, if they admit to committing a medical error, they will be the subject of a malpractice law suit. Interestingly, however, the data suggests otherwise: patients rarely sue doctors who they like and who are honest with them. Think about it: its no surprise that patients are more likely to sue their doctor when they find out that the doctor messed up and covered up something while caring for them. In contrast, when someone frankly and honestly apologizes to you for making a human error, you are far more likely to forgive them.
Perhaps honesty really is the best policy.