How Much Do You Want Your Doctors To Say About Risks of Treatment?

This kind of paternalism, when a doctor assesses the risks and benefits, and spares the patient’s “knowing” seems anachronistic. But it may, still, be what many people are looking for when and if they get a serious illness. Not everyone wants a “tell me everything” kind of physician.

The Flip Side of Unrealistic Optimism

Last week, Pauline Chen wrote on medical ethics and clinical trials. She reflects on her training at a cancer research hospital, where some cancer patients go with unrealistic optimism.

Like Dr. Chen, I spent part of my training at a famous cancer center where I worked as a resident and fellow on rotations. And yes, some patients were unreasonably optimistic and some – perhaps even most, it seemed – didn’t fully “get” the purpose of their trial, which in Phase I studies were not designed to help them. This is a real dilemma for treating oncologists.

FDA Reports on Association of Breast Implants and a Rare Form of Lymphoma

It’s a Pandora’s box, but one that needs be opened. The problem is that if we biopsy every abnor­mality – such as a minor thick­ening or fluid accu­mu­lation adjacent to a breast implant – we’ll hike up the costs and, more impor­tantly, the com­pli­ca­tions asso­ciated: With every needle stick there’s a risk of infection, addi­tional scar for­mation and more. On the other hand, you wouldn’t want to overlook a treatable, early-stage lym­phoma. Women need to know of the risks of implants, which can only be deter­mined if doctors thor­oughly inves­tigate these sorts of complications.

Informed Consent on Paper, but Not in Reality

Over the long weekend I caught up on some reading. One article stands out. It’s on informed consent, and the stunning disconnect between physicians’ and patients’ understanding of a procedure’s value.

The study used survey methods to evaluate 153 cardiology patients’ understanding of the potential benefit of percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI, or angioplasty)…

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