Any given day can be filled with a combination of truths, half-truths, little white lies, outright lies, and many things in between. How about during a doctor visit or a trip to the hospital? Is lying ever acceptable from healthcare personnel?
Honesty is key
Open and honest dialogue is critical to effective care, and it’s never ok to lie or to mislead someone into thinking the situation is better or worse than it is. However, that doesn’t mean the doctor has to throw everything at the patient at once: it is ok to provide information in smaller doses.
Some variation of this may be the case in a variety of situations. Consider mentally fragile patients with whom full disclosure of a devastating diagnosis may cause excessive anxiety, abandonment of ongoing therapies, or total loss of hope. Is it best to hit them with the full truth? Partial truths that take small steps toward eventual and necessary disclosure of the complete truth may be an option for healthcare providers in these cases.
Exploring the gray areas
In some cases, the patient may have a medical proxy who makes decisions. Healthcare providers should tell both the medical proxy and the patient everything, but they may have concerns about the patient’s well-being after a return to competency. In this situation, withholding information from the patient sits on a fine line of what is acceptable to lie about.
There are other gray areas, as well. An accident victim who must be informed of the death of a loved one, but the family asks to break the news themselves. An elderly patient with dementia who must relive the loss of a spouse on a daily basis – and so on. In these and many other cases, healthcare providers must balance their obligation to be truthful with their desire to be compassionate.
What are the possible consequences of lying?
What if a healthcare provider tells a patient an outright lie? One of the possible consequences is getting caught – and that can have pretty serious ramifications. As the healthcare professional, you will look ridiculous and petty while the patient’s trust is eroded when they discover it. It makes the patient wonder if the healthcare professional is trustworthy at all.
The trust problem may go beyond the patient. A healthcare provider’s reputation can quickly shatter following the revelation of a lie. Hospitals, patients, and co-workers need to trust a provider, and lying is a quick way to make it difficult to do so.
Seeking your next assignment?
At 365 Healthcare Staffing Services, we specialize in the recruitment and placement of healthcare professionals in per diem, travel, and permanent assignments in healthcare facilities across the country. Are you looking for your next assignment in the healthcare field? We can help; give us a call at 310.436.3650!