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September 1955

Should the Patient Know the Truth?

AMA Arch Intern Med. 1955;96(3):436. doi:10.1001/archinte.1955.00250140158026

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The very title of this series of questions on patient-physician relationships and matters of medical morality suggests that there is such a thing as "the truth," that this is known to the physician, and that it is sometimes kept away from the patient. In actual fact, as many of the interesting and different essays in this collection clearly set forth, the problem is much more complicated than that. To begin with, the problem concerns the truth merely when it is unpleasant. When the prognosis is good, the diagnosis indicates a benign course or benign lesion, or when nothing bad has been found, there is no question in anyone's mind. On the other hand when the disease is serious, when the outcome is in doubt, or when death is anticipated and, particularly, when some form of malignant tumor forms the basis of the patient's trouble, the questions are very perplexing. There

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