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Telling the Truth to Patients: A Clinical Ethics Exploration

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 July 2009

David C. Thomasma
Medical Ethics and Director of the Medical Humanities Program at Loyola University Chicago Medical Center and the Director of the International Bioethics Institute


In this essay I will examine why the truth is so important to human communication in general, the types of truth, and why truth is only a relative value. After those introductory points, I will sketch the ways in which the truth is overridden or trumped by other concerns in the clinical setting. I will then discuss cases that fall into five distinct categories. The conclusion emphasizes the importance of truth telling and its primacy among secondary goods in the healthcare professional-patient relationship.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1994

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