Nausea and Abdominal Pain Ethical and Legal Issues Discussion
Mr. Smith is a 62-year-old man who has just retired from after selling his successful grocery business. Over the past 3 months, he has experienced nausea and abdominal pain and has lost 20 pounds. He made an appointment with his primary care physician, who recommended that a CT scan be performed the next day. The scan indicated a mass in the pancreas that was highly suggestive of pancreatic carcinoma.
The physician scheduled Mr. Smith for a follow-up appointment. The same day, Mrs. Smith called the office to urge the physician not to tell her husband the diagnosis, if is it one with a poor prognosis. The physician documented the conversation with Mrs. Smith in the medical record, indicating, “Mrs. Smith has told me that hearing bad news will kill him. I informed her that the standard of practice is to fully inform a patient, and that informed consent for subsequent testing and treatment will require Mr. Smith’s understanding of the diagnosis.”
You are the physician, should you inform Mr. Smith of his diagnosis and potentially poor prognosis?
Should you respect Mrs. Smith’s request?
What ethical principles will guide your choice?
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