Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Information and Resources

Doctors Answer Tough Ethical Questions

In Ethical Dilemma, What Would Your Doctor Do? Frank Answers From Real MDs

Are there times when it's acceptable to cover up or avoid revealing a mistake if that mistake would potentially or likely harm the patient?

Answers:

  • Yes, 1.6%
  • No, 94.9%
  • It depends, 3.5%

Doctors said:

  • "I would, but I would contact an attorney first."
  • "We take an oath to do no harm. Covering up is a form of lying."

 

Would you ever undertreat a patient's pain because you’re concerned about repercussions or because you believe that a patient -- even a terminal patient -- might become addicted?

Answers:

  • Yes, 5.6%
  • No, 84.1%
  • It depends, 10.3%

Doctors said:

  • "Pain should not be undertreated, and what's the problem with a terminal patient being addicted and comfortable?"
  • "Having been sanctioned by an out-of-control, vindictive state medical board, such things aren't even in the purview of ethics, but rather a survival mechanism for my ability to continue practicing."

 

Would you ever hide information from a patient about a terminal or preterminal diagnosis in an effort to bolster their spirit or attitude?

Answers:

  • Yes, I soften it and give hope even if there's little chance, 14.6%
  • Yes, unless someone is going to die imminently, I don't tell them how bad it is, 1.7%
  • No, I tell it exactly as I see it, 59.8%
  • It depends, 23.8%

Doctors said:

  • "Most of the time, I tell them exactly as it is; they need to know the truth, and who am I to judge what they should or shouldn't know? If the patient is very frail emotionally and physically and has a very supportive family, I may not."
  • "The truth, delivered with compassion, is a gift."

 

Is it ever acceptable to break patient confidentiality if you know that a patient's health status may be harming others?

Answers:

  • Yes, 53.2%
  • No, 20.2%
  • It depends, 26.6%

Doctors said:

  • "As per Mr. Spock, 'The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.' This applies in highly specific circumstances, however, and would be the exception, not the rule."
  • "Owing to ethics and HIPAA, I don't believe that it should or can be done. I would certainly attempt to convince the patient to disclose the information to his or her spouse or partner."

 

Would you agree that you should refuse gifts or perks from pharmaceutical companies because they may influence your medical judgment?

Answers:

  • Yes, 46.8%
  • No, 36.8%
  • It depends, 16.4%

Doctors said:

  • "If by 'gifts' you mean items of value (e.g., expensive pens or outings) then my answer is yes."
  • "I am not so shallow that I can be bought off by a slice of pizza."

 

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing