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Medical Ethics: Must Doctors Tell Patients About Best Hospitals?

Posted Jan 7, 2009 1:13 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Some doctors are better than others at treating certain conditions, as other physicians and sophisticated patients know. Likewise, some hospitals do better than others at treating difficult cases, studies show.

But it shouldn't be only those with medical expertise who are aware of such differences, a recent online medical journal article suggests. When a treating physician knows that a patient likely would have a better outcome at a specific hospital, two of the authors write, the doctor should have an ethical obligation under informed consent standards to say so, reports the New York Times.

"And that obligation holds even if the doctor happens to work at Hospital B," rather than the most-skilled medical center, "and revealing the truth might mean patients will take their business someplace else," the newspaper recounts.

This informed consent argument in the PLoS Medicine article is made by Dr. Leonidas Koniaris, a cancer surgeon at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, and medical student Nadine Housri. Two other authors offer an opposing view.

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