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Truth-telling and patient diagnoses
  1. Robert J Sullivan,
  2. Lawrence W Menapace,
  3. Royce M White
  1. Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York, USA


    How do physicians handle informing patients of their diagnoses and how much information do patients really want? How do registered nurses view both sides of this question?

    Three questionnaires were constructed and administered in a mid-size hospital in New York state. Physicians and nurses underestimate the number of patients who want detailed information. Patients who earn more than average, have a college education, and who are under age 60 are more likely to want information, and state that their physician should give it to them. Only 42% of physicians state that patients want a detailed description of their diagnosis and treatment options. Physicians educated outside the USA appeared to be more likely to change their criteria for informing patients and, along with American-educated nurses, were more willing to participate in formal discussions of the issue.

    Physicians should comply with the wishes of patients for information and include them in the team deciding on diagnosis and treatment.

    • Truth-telling
    • diagnoses
    • informed consent
    • prognosis

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    • Robert J Sullivan, PhD, MT(ASCP), is Associate Professor of Medical Laboratory Science, Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York, USA. Lawrence Menapace, PhD, is Associate Professor of Chemistry, Marist College, Poughkeepsie and Royce M White, PhD, is Associate Professor of Psychology, Marist College, Poughkeepsie.

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