Truth-telling and the Asymmetry of the Attitude to Truth-telling to Dying Patients in Latvia
Keywords:truth-telling truthfulness, physicians, students, dying patients
This article deals with concerns related to truth-telling in interaction between the doctor and the dying patient, exploring such issues as conflicting duties of veracity and non-maleficence, truthfulness and deception, and reasons behind physicians' decisions either to withhold or to disclose information about patients' diagnoses and prognoses. It focuses on various attitudes to truth-telling to dying patients, such as symmetry and asymmetry, both of which can be positive and negative. The empirical part of the article reports on the methods and results of the qualitative study carried out in Latvia during the summer of 2012. This study was based on the assessment of three case scenarios from the quantitative instrument designed by Dalla-Vorgia et al. in 1992. By means of semi-structured and focus-group interviews, evidence was gathered about physicians' and medical students' attitudes towards truth-telling, which allows the drawing of conclusions about the presence of asymmetry and symmetry in both cases. Additionally, an insight about the standards used for making decisions in case scenarios was gained and the origins of these standards were explored, revealing the aftermath of a gradual evolution from the ethics of the Soviet era to modern standards of medical ethics.
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