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Deception in medicine: acupuncturist cases
  1. William Simkulet1,2
  1. 1 Philosophy, Park University, Parkville, Missouri, USA
  2. 2 Dodge City Community College, Dodge City, Kansas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr William Simkulet, Philosophy, Park University, Parkville, MO 64152, USA; simkuletwm{at}


Colgrove challenges Doug Hardman’s account of deception in medicine. Hardman contends physicians can unintentionally deceive their patients, illustrating this by way of an acupuncturist who believes what she says despite insufficient medical evidence, falling short of what Hardman believes adequate disclosure requires. Colgrove argues deception requires intent but constructs an alternative case in which an acupuncturist does not believe what he tells the patient, but purportedly lacks an intent to deceive. Here, I argue that both acupuncturists deceive, and both can be said to do so intentionally. Neither lies, but rather they seem to engage another deceptive form of speech, what Frankfurt calls bullshit. Building on Colgrove’s case, I argue cases where a physician’s disclosure includes reading a script they do not believe, this is both deceptive and contrary to professional medical ethics.

  • Informed Consent

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  • Contributors WS is the sole author.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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