Survey: Most docs struggle with ethical patient dilemmas

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Sixty percent of doctors do not believe it’s acceptable to cover up or avoid revealing a mistake if that mistake would not cause harm to the patient, according to a report from WebMD Health on doctor’s attitudes on medical ethical issues.

Nineteen percent of respondents said it was acceptable, and the remaining 20.9 percent said “it depends," the New York City-based WebMD Health found.

More than 10,000 physicians responded to an August survey that explored ethical issues, including end-of-life care, pain treatment, insurance reimbursement, colleague relations, withholding information from a patient, patient privacy and other issues that present moral dilemmas.

Results were mixed on whether physician-assisted suicide should be allowed in some cases with 45.8 percent of respondents answering "yes," 40.7 percent responding "no" and the other 13.5 percent stating "it depends."

When asked whether they would hide information from a patient about a terminal or preterminal diagnosis in an effort to bolster the patient's spirit or attitude, 59.8 percent of physicians responded they would tell it exactly like they see it while 14.6 percent admitted they would soften it and give hope even if there's little chance.

Unless the patient were going to die immediately, 1.7 percent stated they wouldn't tell a patient how bad it was and the other 23.8 percent said it would depend, the survey found.