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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2007 May 5; 334(7600): 915.
PMCID: PMC1865398
Candour on Unfunded Treatments

Patients do not live in an information vacuum

John Perry, general practitioner

Firth has done his best with a very short straw and moved the debate from the general question to a very specific patient.1

Mr Brown is that rarity in today's society: a person disinterested in his medical condition and bereft of sources of information or indeed of friends, relatives, or campaigners who will give him information he may not want.

My concern would be that when (not if) he receives the information, and then appreciates that the doctor failed to inform him, his trust in that doctor and the profession in general will be undermined.

People with ill health have to face many uncomfortable and distressing changes in their lives, and, although doctors have a duty to comfort, this cannot mean protecting patients from information that is both empowering and uncomfortable. Doctors cannot know what resources their patients may have or be able to rally.


Competing interests: None declared.


1. Firth J. Should you tell patients about beneficial treatments that they cannot have? No. BMJ 2007;334:827 (21 April.) [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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