The dilemma of whether or not a doctor should tell a patient dying of cancer the truth remains a difficult one, as the disagreement between the two previous writers shows. One favours giving priority to patient autonomy, the other feels the doctor's duty of beneficence should be the overriding principle governing such decisions. To this contributor it seems both approaches have something to offer. By being sensitive to what and how much the patient wishes to know and by learning from the insights provided by the study of medical ethics, doctors can learn how to make better moral decisions in this and in other areas. Both lying and truth-telling carry risks of harm to the patient. Learning to work with and balance these risks is part of clinical practice. So is minimising risks by clear thinking.
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