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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The ethical foundation for honesty and the focused use of deception in dermatology

  • Author(s): Pona, Adrian
  • Huang, William W
  • Burrow, Robert H
  • Brodell, Robert T
  • Feldman, Steven R
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

Physicians have a fiduciary duty to be honest and to act in the patients' best interest. There are times when these two duties conflict. Honesty is paramount in supporting the physician-patient relationship and loss of patient trust is devastating. Furthermore, even minor deception can suggest a return to the physician authoritarianism of the past century that has been decried by modern ethicists. Nonetheless, circumstances can arise in which good judgement may require less than complete honesty to avoid harm to the patient. If the benefit for the patient is large and the risk from deception is small, thoughtful application of minor deception could be designed to benefit patients. Of course, research is required to fully assess this strategy.

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