In the article entitled "Physicians' Attitudes Toward Using Deception to Resolve Difficult Ethical Problems," Novack et al1 raise more questions about methodology than about morality. The study is predicated on scenarios, half of which are analyzed in terms of the notion of "passive deception," ie, "nondisclosure, [or] allowing another to deceive, or failing to correct a misconception." This definition is standard neither in the philosophical literature nor in ordinary usage, and has the curious effect of making deception a transitive concept, ie, anyone who allows or agrees to deception can be said to be deceivers themselves.
Thus, in one scenario, the authors claim that physicians who merely "agree" to allowing a husband's deception of his wife are themselves "deceivers." In a second scenario, a version of the Robert John Denis Browne case,2,3 the authors characterize as (passive) deceivers physicians who decline to divulge to the mother of a
Baker R, Dersch V, Strosberg M, Fein IA, Ponemon L. Physicians' Attitudes Toward Using Deception. JAMA. 1989;262(16):2233. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430160051026