Healthcare professions have codes of conduct and ethics that address the issue of honesty and trust in relation to patient encounters yet truth-telling (or being honest) versus deception (or being dishonest) has been identified as an ethical issue in hospitals, particularly about diagnosis and prognosis disclosures. Dossa (2010) defines being honest or telling the truth as relating the facts as one knows them. Furthermore, Dossa (2010) states that deception can be an act of dishonesty but also can be without lies. In other words, forms of deception include not giving any information, not giving information of the truth, withholding information, selecting what information to give and not give, and giving vague information.
The most common
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Patient Perspective The literature review reveals that, in general, most patients want truthfulness about their health, but there is evidence that a minority of patients prefer not to know about their health conditions, such as having terminal cancer (Kazdaglis et al., 2010). In a study conducted in 2010 by Cleary, Hunt, Escott, and Walter, the majority (88%) of participants wanted to be told of their diagnosis and treatment options even if the information was distressing, nearly all (92%) agreed they had a legal or moral right to information about their diagnosis, and nearly two thirds thought it was more concerning not to be told. The highest response rates in this study were for staff to provide accurate and reliable information, be honest, and answer patients’ questions, and inform patients of their treatment options and side effects (Cleary, Hunt, Escott, & Walter, 2010).
Although it has been found that most patients agreed that the doctor was the best person to tell them their diagnosis (Cleary et al., 2010), from a healthcare providers perspective, the difficulty and dilemma of whether to tell the truth or not becomes evident when having to break “bad” news, especially if it involves telling someone they have an irreversible cognitive impairment from a psychiatric