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February 5, 1982

Truth Telling in Medicine

JAMA. 1982;247(5):651-654. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320300055023

TRUTH TELLING is, of course, a very broad topic at issue extensively in the practice of medicine. It does not pertain only to communication between physician and patient, but also, for instance, to matters of confidentiality, to candid evaluation of one's peers, and to the use of placebos. There are also instances of physicians who become involved in acts of civil disobedience, even if the acts are not known to the civil authority. For example, there were physicians against the war in Vietnam who, as a matter of principle, falsified medical records to enable certain individuals to escape service in the war. There were also physicians who falsified the health records of particular children so these children could avoid being transported across town to achieve court-ordered racial integration. The focus of this article, however, will be limited to the issue of communication between physician and patient.

This is not a