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When people become ill or injured, they place their trust in the hands of doctors. In exchange for this trust, patients expect doctors to tell them the truth about the extent of illnesses and realities of prognoses. Yet, a survey recently published in Health Affairs indicates that doctors are not always completely truthful when communicating with patients.

Conducted by Dr. Lisa Iezzoni, director of the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, survey responses by over 18,000 doctors revealed:

  • 55 percent had been unjustifiably positive in reporting their patients' prognoses
  • Approximately 33 percent said medical errors did not necessarily need to be disclosed
  • 10 percent had told patents something untrue
  • 40 percent believed financial interests with drug or medical device manufacturers needed to be disclosed

But why are doctors failing to tell patients the whole truth? Dr. Iezzoni reports that 20 percent of doctors surveyed lied to protect themselves from lawsuits. There are several other reasons, often without ill intent, that doctors lie or exaggerate, according to an article by Time Healthland those reasons include:

  • Calming anxious parents
  • Motivating patients to take control of their health
  • Helping patients stay hopeful about recovery
  • Softening negative prognoses
  • Avoiding "long and emotional discussions"

Regardless of the reasoning that doctors have for not telling the whole truth to patients, such as avoiding admitting mistakes and trying to protect themselves from medical malpractice liability, Dr. Otis Webb Brawley insists in an article for CNN that when doctors are honest about the care they provide, most patients are forgiving and "rarely sue."

Yet, even though patients may be quick to forgive doctors' failings, when negligent doctors make mistakes that cause patients needless pain and injury, a medical malpractice lawsuit potentially allows for the recovery of compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and long-term rehabilitation costs, as well as provide recovery for needless pain and suffering.

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