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January 10, 1996

Patient-Physician Communication: Respect for Culture, Religion, and Autonomy

Author Affiliations

Semmelweis University of Medicine Budapest, Hungary

JAMA. 1996;275(2):107. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530260021011

To the Editor.  —I read with interest the articles on the ethnic differences in attitudes toward patient autonomy.13 The topic concerns personal integrity, and the concept of human autonomy in the context of medical ethics is often strongly biased in favor of "telling the truth" to all patients. Hungarian jurisdiction renders this to be the obligation of the physician. The Draft Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being of the Council of Europe (1994) states: "Individuals are entitled to know any information collected about their health. However, the wishes of individuals not to be so informed shall be observed."To tell patients the "whole truth" is hypothetical because we do not always know exactly the demarcation between true and false. Advocates of unconditional truth telling forget about the trust the patient has in his or her physician. The greater this trust, the less