Is Your Doctor Telling You the Truth? Study Results May Surprise You

Americans are conditioned to trust medical professionals. For example, television and print advertisements frequently depict doctors in white coats to add an appearance of intelligence and trustworthiness to whatever is being promoted. As a result, people are often dismayed and shocked when doctors commit errors and disappoint or harm their patients.

Results from nationwide studies of doctors were recently revealed in Health Journal, a monthly journal of health policy thought and research. The studies analyzed the openness and honesty of communications between doctors and their patients.

Are Doctors Truthful?

Although most physicians are truthful in their discussions with patients, the studies revealed that many were not. Of the doctors polled:

  • More than a third believe it is not always necessary to tell a patient about serious medical errors they committed
  • One fifth did not admit to their own medical mistakes made in the year prior to the studies, primarily because they were afraid of lawsuits
  • Over half gave their patients a better prognosis than was warranted by the patient's condition or circumstances
  • Many made recommendations to their patients that they would not choose for themselves - usually for options that had higher survival rates but had many more potential complications and adverse side effects
  • Over a third did not believe they needed to disclose their financial relationships with medical companies such as pharmaceutical companies or medical device makers
  • Almost 100 percent admitted to ordering unnecessary tests, procedures or hospital admissions in order to avoid potential medical malpractice lawsuits

Who Is More Likely to be Truthful?

The studies also polled gender and ethnic characteristics and revealed interesting trends. Of the doctors studied, certain groups who were more likely to be truthful with their patients include:

  • Women doctors
  • Doctors from non-Asian minority groups
  • Doctors who graduated from medical schools outside of the U.S.

Although dishonesty or a failure to admit to mistakes does not necessarily constitute medical malpractice, most patients would agree they would rather know the truth about their treatment and prognoses.

If you have suffered harm from a medical error or from not being told about side effects or other treatment options available, seek help from a lawyer. A knowledgeable medical error attorney may help you obtain compensation for your injuries or loss.