To The Editor:I would like to question some of the assumptions made by Capozzi and Rhodes
in their thought-provoking article "A Family's Request for
and, dare I say it, suggest a view less critical of benignly intended
deception.The authors assert that "over time, deception and lies are usually
revealed." This may not be true. I suspect that most deceptions by
physicians— whether selfish (e.g., to cover up an error or to avoid an
awkward conversation) or benignly intended (e.g., to spare a patient some
distress)—are never discovered. In a study that I conducted as part of a
PhD thesis (as yet unpublished), I asked eighty-five physicians working in the
United Kingdom how often they believed deception was used by physicians.
Forty-five percent answered "often" and 46%,
"occasionally." These results suggest that physicians' deception
may be more prevalent than is commonly thought. I suspect only a fraction of
these deceptive acts are detected by patients.