Monday, September 25, 2006

Why doctors edit the information they give to their patients

Doctors are supposed to be trusted infomediaries who are meant to intelligently apply their medical knowledge to our personal illness, and guide us as to how to treat it. However, one problem is that doctors can be very selective about the information which they provide to their patients . Sometimes they can do it for ulterior motives - for example , a cardiac surgeon who overpromises the benefits of cardiac surgery . However, the problem is much more widespread. As Dr Nuland points out, in his book, How We Die, “ even well-meaning doctors, in an attempt to maintain control , convince themselves that they know better than the patient what course is proper . They dispense only as much information as they deem fit ( a highly edited and sanitized version, especially for very ill patients) , thereby influencing a patient’s decision-making in ways they do not even recognize as being self-serving .” Many of them may do it with good intentions, but they often end up “overtreating” the patient; and disregarding the patient's personal wishes.

This is why I feel Information Therapy can be such powerful medicine. Since it is directly delivered to the patient without any censorship, the intelligent patient can interpret it accurately, without having to worry about whether the truth is being “sugar-coated”.

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