I recently came across a survey by Gallup ranking professionals by their reputation for honesty and ethics. Did you know that nurses have topped the ratings at #1 for eleven years? (Obviously because Medics/EMT’s were not on the list of professions from which to choose)
When it comes to doctors, the Charter on Medical Professionalism, endorsed by more than 130 professional groups worldwide and the US Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, requires openness and honesty in physicians’ communication with patients.
According to all the prehospital care textbooks, we should not lie to our patients.
“Be honest and sincere about what you’re telling [patients], but never harsh.” – Nancy Caroline’s Emergency Care in the Streets
“The patient and other members of the health care team assume you are sincere and trustworthy. The single most important behavior that you will be judged by is honesty…you must be trustworthy. The easiest way for a paramedic to lose respect is to be dishonest.” – Paramedic Care Principles & Practice
OK, so let me ask you…Should we ever lie to our patients? What about a “lie of omission?” What about applying a little sugar-coating to the truth? If allowed, in what circumstances ought being less than truthful with a patient be permissible within our profession or do we simply leave that judgement up to the individual medic’s discretion?
I hope you take a few minutes to ponder these questions and this subject of honesty with our patients. Now let the Eurythmics set the mood for some honesty…