Good commentary on the recent study (When Treating Cancer Is Not an Option) showing that many terminally ill cancer patients believed chemo could still cure them. In addition to other factors such as the optimum bias, one additional possible reason:
One final worrisome finding is that the patients who reported better scores for how well their physician communicated with them were less likely to give accurate responses for the goals of chemotherapy. That means that patients who best understood that chemotherapy could not cure them reported that their physicians were worse communicators than patients who misunderstood their likelihood of cure. Does telling bad news inevitably strain the physician-patient relationship? Do patients bond best with physicians who misinform them with optimism or allow them to misunderstand important aspects of their care?
As patient satisfaction surveys begin to play a larger role in physician compensation we may ironically find that doctors will be increasingly paid to cater to patients’ unstated desire for misinformation.