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In survey, doctors and nurses admit to lying to patients

It might be hard to believe, but some medical professionals say that there are some circumstances in which it's acceptable to lie to a patient. Perhaps more unbelievable is the fact that some admit to having done it.

In a recent survey by the website Medscape, doctors and nurses (including advanced practice registered nurses or APRNs) responded to questions about veracity in three categories:

  • Medical errors
  • Patients' prognoses
  • To get reimbursement or treatment for a patient

Over 280 doctors and more than 360 nurses responded to the survey.

In the survey, 17 percent of doctors admitted that they'd lied about a medical error to a patient. Slightly fewer (14 percent) said they'd lied to someone about their prognosis. Over a quarter (26 percent) said they'd lied for a patient to get approval for a treatment or insurance reimbursement. Meanwhile, 45 percent said they'd never lied regarding any of those subjects.

The numbers for nurses were lower. Six percent admitted to lying about a mistake or a prognosis. Ten percent said they'd lied to get reimbursement or treatment for a patient. However, 62 percent of nurses said they'd never lied regarding any of those matters.

Generally, more medical professionals (both doctors and nurses) said that they thought it was acceptable to lie about those things than admitted doing it.

Most patients likely wouldn't have a problem with a doctor or nurse bending the truth to get them needed treatment or persuade an insurance company to cover their treatment. However, lying to cover up a medical error (their own or someone else's) is another matter entirely.

It might also seem unbelievable that a doctor or nurse would lie to someone about their prognosis. However, at least one doctor noted that lies under these circumstances may be more about wishful thinking because "doctors have hope too."

If you believe that you or a loved one was harmed because a medical professional wasn't honest or that they weren't forthcoming about a medical error that caused harm, it's wise to seek legal guidance.

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