Hold your disgust: A nuanced look at paternalism in medicine



A discussion of the ethical issues involved with medical tests and disclosure of the results. A lot of it boils down to good patient-doctor communications, informed consent, and doctors thinking through the implications of possible communication issues following tests.

My bias is for full disclosure, with the necessary contextual information; the nature of people, however, is that reactions will vary, and some further support to some patients in understanding the practical impact may be needed.

The complex nature of medical knowledge and its potential for life-altering impact (and expense) argue against any patient being able to order any test for themselves, including a genomic analysis. The information gained from such an analysis requires professional interpretation so that people can use the information wisely. A test result that sounds horrible to a patient may in fact be insignificant, and vice versa.

There are risks to people having unbounded ability to use medical testing and treatment. For patients to agree to this important premise, we as physicians must respect their autonomy and human dignity.

Hold your disgust: A nuanced look at paternalism in medicine.


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