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bioethics, informed consent, truth disclosure, deception, hope



  1. Glass, Elaine APN, BC-PCM
  2. Cluxton, Douglas MA, LPC


Research indicates that most patients and their families want to know the truth about their illness, even when the news is not good. Healthcare professionals have an ethical obligation to tell patients and families the truth about their illness, prognosis, and available treatment options, including hospice care. Failure to provide truthful information impedes patients and families from making treatment and/or end-of-life choices that are consistent with their wishes. Fear of taking away a patient's hope is a common reason why healthcare professionals may not tell patients the truth about their prognosis. However, this reason is based on misconceptions about hope. This article addresses ethical issues surrounding truth-telling in clinical practice, including ethical rationale, professionals' obligations, outcomes of not telling the truth, reasons healthcare professionals do not tell the truth, and ways of telling the truth without taking away hope.