Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Knotty Question re Private Information

Years ago, when Dr. Robert Potter and I were colleagues at the Center for Practical Bioethics, he was engaged in getting doctors' office staffs to "do ethics," and so when I ran across some "office ethics" cases, I decided to use them for my November ethics brown bag.

So I am back with you asking for your prudent and wise advice.

"Two hours before a doctor is to see a patient, her husband calls to relate private information that he fears the patient will not share with the physician. Should the physician disclose this conversation to the patient? What is the risk if she discovers at a later time that a confidential conversation occurred?"

I know we don't have a clue about the nature of the "private information," but if the patient does NOT tell it to the doctor and if the information is relevant to her condition, then should I weigh consequences of revealing/not revealing--and march into the fray as autilitarian?

Or might it be better to keep the informant's remarks private and instead ask questions that hopefully will lead the patient to reveal the information? And if she doesn't, then to prescribe on the basis of what she has told the doctor.

I think this is knotty!!!! And I would love some real-life insight. THANKS.

--Rosemary Flanigan



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