La vérité sur le consentement médical

LONDRES – Est-il acceptable que les médecins fassent de la rétention d'information envers leurs patients ? Certains prétendent que cela est non seulement acceptable, mais souhaitable. Les partisans de cette thèse estiment que l'espoir est essentiel pour faciliter la guérison. Et à ce titre, il ne faut pas qu'un diagnostic peu prometteur mette en péril cette guérison.

Dans son œuvre influente de 1803 Medical Ethics, le médecin anglais Thomas Percival a décrit le rôle du médecin comme « le ministre d'espérance et de réconfort pour les malades », et a fait remarquer que parfois les médecins doivent dissimuler à leurs patients certaines informations inquiétantes. La vie d'un patient peut être écourtée non seulement par les actes d'un médecin, mais aussi par ses mots et son attitude, écrit Percival.

Le médecin canadien William Osler (dont l'un des patients fut Walt Whitman) fut un autre fervent promoteur du pouvoir de guérison de l'espérance. En effet, son « optimisme à toute épreuve, bien que parfois injustifié » d'après un biographe, était un de ses caractéristiques les plus remarquables. Dans un manuel de 1958 sur l'éthique médicale et le droit, un autre éminent médecin a déclaré qu'il est « souvent cliniquement avisé et dans l'intérêt du patient de taire certains sujets confidentiels. »

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