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Dialogue: The Characteristics of Information and Avoiding Surprises

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Heather J. Gert, Associate Professor (Creator)
Institution
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: The principle of avoiding surprises, on the other hand, provides some recourse. This is because most of the time there is general agreement about which possible outcomes would be surprising. Moreover, if the patient is surprised, that is some - albeit inconclusive - reason to believe that the physician should have provided the information. Also, a physician who fails to warn a patient must be willing to say that he was unprepared for that outcome, and so may be open to the criticism that he should have been. Granted, there will be instances in which it is not clear that the physician should have been prepared for an outcome, or should have found it unsurprising. But these correspond with the instances in which it simply is not clear whether the physician had the obligation to provide that information. There are gray areas. Although Steinberg's characteristics will be helpful for physicians sincerely looking for guidance, my concern is that they cannot provide a standard, and would not allow criticism of those rare physicians who stubbornly refuse to inform their patients.

Additional Information

Publication
Lahey Clinic Medical Ethics, Winter 2003, p. 6
Language: English
Date: 2003
Keywords
informed consent, medical diagnosis, patient information, physician\patient relationships