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October 26, 1979

Telling the Cancer Patient

Author Affiliations

Wills Eye Hospital Philadelphia

JAMA. 1979;242(17):1847-1848. doi:10.1001/jama.1979.03300170013006

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To the Editor.—  The article by Novack et al (241:897, 1979), "Changes in Physicians' Attitudes Toward Telling the Cancer Patient," was an important one. Properly, it evoked two editorials (241:928, 1979) that appeared in the same issue. However, the conclusions of the article and both of the editorials were bone chilling.The original article concludes that "physicians are still basing their communications with cancer patients on emotion-laden personal convictions" rather than the outcome of properly designed scientific studies. The statement presents the authors' belief that behavior regarding human rights should properly be based on research studies.I strongly disagree with this unfounded assumption of the authors. Patients should be told the basic nature of their illness because it is their right to know. That conclusion is based on my conception of individual rights. Such a conception is the product of my values, which are heavily influenced by societal and emotional