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Do doctors lie to patients?

Do you think your doctor is open and honest with you?

Maybe not always, according to a new survey.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Mongan Institute for Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston surveyed 1,891 physicians nationwide and one-tenth said they had told a patient something untruthful in the last year.

Nearly 20 percent of physicians surveyed said they had not fully disclosed an error to a patient in the previous year because they feared a malpractice case. Doctors feared lawsuits even though research has shown prompt disclosure cuts down on malpractice cases.

Other findings from the study were:

*  More than 55 percent of doctors said they often or sometimes said a patients prognosis was better than actuality to prevent a patient from losing hope.

* Women and minority doctors were more likely to be truthful and stick to the rules

* General surgeons more likely to fudge the truth.

* More than a third of doctors didn't totally agree they needed to disclose financial ties to drug and device companies.

The findings of the survey were published in the February issue of Health Affairs.


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