Honestly, do we need a policy on truth?

Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 2001 Jun;11(2):157-64. doi: 10.1353/ken.2001.0013.


Physicians are taught that the foundation of the physician-patient relationship is trust, and trust is based in part on truthfulness. While drawing important "lines in the sand" regarding whether and why to tell the truth, ethics codes promulgating honesty fail to provide clinicians with guidance regarding what is the truth, as well as when and how to disclose it. These issues may be at the core of why an adverse event is left undisclosed. Consistently being truthful in the setting of an error is particularly difficult and requires overcoming a number of institutional and personal barriers. The article concludes that if delivering "the truth" is important, then articulation of criteria for determining what should be told, by whom, and when is essential. A policy that considers the practical issues and provides guidance may be useful.

MeSH terms

  • Disclosure
  • Ethics, Institutional
  • Ethics, Professional
  • Family
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors*
  • Organizational Policy*
  • Truth Disclosure*