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Protective truthfulness: the Chinese way of safeguarding patients in informed treatment decisions.
  1. M C Pang
  1. Hong Kong Polytechnic University, China.

    Abstract

    The first part of this paper examines the practice of informed treatment decisions in the protective medical system in China today. The second part examines how health care professionals in China perceive and carry out their responsibilities when relaying information to vulnerable patients, based on the findings of an empirical study that I had undertaken to examine the moral experience of nurses in practice situations. In the Chinese medical ethics tradition, refinement [jing] in skills and sincerity [cheng] in relating to patients are two cardinal virtues that health care professionals are required to possess. This notion of absolute sincerity carries a strong sense of parental protectiveness. The empirical findings reveal that most nurses are ambivalent about telling the truth to patients. Truth-telling would become an insincere act if a patient were to lose hope and confidence in life after learning of his or her disease. In this system of protective medical care, it is arguable as to whose interests are being protected: the patient, the family or the hospital. I would suggest that the interests of the hospital and the family members who legitimately represent the patient's interests are being honoured, but at the expense of the patient's right to know.

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