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The ethics of telling the patient
  1. Lawrence Goldie
  1. Royal Marsden Hospital, London

    Abstract

    The author, a consultant psychotherapist who works with dying patients in a National Health Service (NHS) hospital, argues that the moral issue is not simply whether or not to tell cancer patients the truth, but more importantly how to do so. Lies and the bald unprepared-for truth may both be damaging. Time and trouble is needed to understand patients and help them understand their situation. Dr Goldie warns that putting oneself into the patient's shoes, as doctors so often do, is the best way of not knowing what another feels. Such misunderstanding may lead to medical decisions based on `nothing more than fantasies - uninspired guesses about what other people think and feel. It is the equivalent of prescribing for patients without examination'.

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