Intended for healthcare professionals


Can deceiving patients be morally acceptable?

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: (Published 10 May 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:984

Ethics of giving information by doctors

I am not convinced benignly intended deception is the right term. I take Sokol's point about erring on the side of recognising deception, but misleading patients is not the same as giving patients the information they need and require. Good communication skills in giving information require the doctor to establish what the patient wants to know.

It may be helpful to have evidence before proposing a flowchart. I am not sure what Sokol would suggest the doctor says to the patient in the case study of the unhopeful anaesthetist. An empirical study evaluating what patients think the doctor should say in this and similar situations may help him to develop a flowchart that relates to the ethics of giving information by doctors.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

11 May 2007
D B Double
Consultant Psychiatrist
Norfolk & Waveney Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust, Norwich NR6 5BE