The Lies That Doctors and Patients Tell

“The Lies That Doctors and Patients Tell, by Sandeep Jauhar, MD, The New York Times Well Blog.

The doctor-patient relationship is ideally an intimate partnership where information is exchanged openly and honestly. That is seldom the reality, however. Deception in the doctor-patient relationship is more common than we’d like to believe.

We don’t always reveal when we make mistakes. Too often we order unnecessary tests, to bolster revenue or to protect against lawsuits. We sometimes mislead patients that our therapies have more value, more evidence behind them, than they actually do — whether it was placebo injections from my grandfather’s era, for example, or much of the spinal surgery or angioplasty that’s done today.

Perhaps the most powerful deceptions in medicine are the ones we direct at ourselves — at our patients’ expense. Many physicians still espouse the patriotic (but deeply misconceived) notion that the American medical system is the best in the world. We deny the sickness in our system, and the role we as a profession have played in creating that sickness. We obsessively push ourselves to do more and more tests, scans and treatments for reasons that we sometimes hide from ourselves.

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