Medical deception

Other Names:
Withholding of medical information
Lying by medical professionals

Doctors use information as part of the therapeutic regimen; it is given out in amounts, in admixtures, and according to timing believed best for patients. Accuracy, by comparison, matters far less. The patient may be told nothing at all or only part of the story, or relevant information may be couched in technical or euphemistic language, calculated to deceive. There are instances where medical researchers have withheld information about the possible effects of an experimental drug or procedure, and at least one in the USA where researchers undertaking a drug testing programme, owned shares in the biotechnology company manufacturing the drug.


In Japan, doctors are often so revered and secretive that they do not tell a patient that he has terminal cancer. Most doctors in a number of 1970s surveys in the USA said that they would not, as a rule, inform patients that they have cancer. However, 80% of patients with potentially serious illnesses said they would want to be told of such a diagnosis. Growing numbers are now signing statement know as "living wills", in which they can specify whether or not they would want to be informed about a serious condition; also to specify conditions under which they do not want to have their lives prolonged.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST