Should Physicians Fake Diagnoses to Help Their Patients?
Journal of Medical Ethics 2008 March; 34(3): 133-136
Are fake diagnoses and false or misleading certificates permissible means of helping patients? This question is examined in relation to four examples from Swedish health care: the sterilisation case, the asylum case, the virginity case, and the adoption case. We argue that both consequentialist and deontological ethical theories, to be reasonable, need to balance values, principles, and interests such as wellbeing, truthfulness, autonomy, personal integrity, trust in the medical profession, and abidance by national legislation. We conclude that it can be justifiable for physicians to fake diagnoses and write false or misleading certificates in order to help patients when not doing so has dire consequences. However, physicians must also consider the long-term effects of making exceptions to honest, non-deceitful behaviour based on the best empirical evidence available. Otherwise valuable social practices might erode and public confidence in physicians be threatened.
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