[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
August 17, 1979

Should the Patient Know?

Author Affiliations

New York University School of Medicine New York

JAMA. 1979;242(7):615. doi:10.1001/jama.1979.03300070013006

To the Editor.—  I was glad to see the recent contributions by Emil J Freireich, MD, Samuel Vaisrub, MD (241:928, 1979), and Novack et al concerning what physicians should, and do, tell their cancer patients. Dr Vaisrub is right to point out that sometimes we can tell patients more than is good for them, but he is wrong in implying that most thanatologists believe that patients should be told the whole unvarnished truth.It is a question of attitude. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, MD,1 never tells patients "the truth about their hopeless outlook." As she puts it:I do not tell the patient that he is dying or that he is terminally ill. I simply tell him that he is seriously ill and that we are doing everything humanly possibly to help him function as well as he can.... No patient should be told that he is dying.... If a patient