Deception as Therapy:
A 46-year-old man, coming to a clinic for a routine physical check-up needed for insurance purposes, is diagnosed as having a form of cancer likely to cause him to die within six months. No known cure exists for it. Chemotherapy may prolong his life for a few months, but will have side effects the physician does not think warranted in this case. In addition, he thinks this therapy should be reserved for patients with a chance of recovery or remission. The patient has no symptoms giving him any reason to believe he is not perfectly healthy. He expects to take a short vacation in a week.
For the physician, there are now several choices involving truthfulness.
- Ought he to tell the patient what he has learned or conceal it?
- If asked, should he deny it?
- If he decides to reveal the diagnosis, should be delay doing so until after the patient returns from vacation?
- Finally, even if he does reveal the serious nature of the diagnosis, should he mention the possibility of chemotherapy and his reasons for not recommending it in this case?
- Or should he encourage every last effort to postpone death?
Which option would you choose and why?